Swiss prosecuting authorities have opened criminal proceedings against football great Franz Beckenbauer and former senior German football federation officials in connection with a payment made around the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

The investigation relates to allegations of fraud, criminal mismanagement, money laundering and misappropriation, a statement from the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland said.

Searches were carried out Thursday in eight separate locations in close cooperation with authorities in Austria and Germany. In addition "various suspects were questioned by or on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland," a statement said.

The criminal proceedings were opened on November 6, 2015 into Beckenbauer, who was head of the German 2006 World Cup organizing committee, former German federation DFB presidents Wolfgang Niersbach and Theo Zwanziger, and Horst R Schmidt, the DFB's former general secretary. All were members of the executive board of the organizing committee.

The investigations focus on a payment to football world governing body FIFA of 6.7 million euros (7.45 million dollars) for a World Cup gala event which never took place.

It is believed the money was a repayment to the late former Adidas boss Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who had transferred the sum of 10 million Swiss francs to the account of a Swiss law firm several years earlier.

"It is suspected that the suspects knew that this sum was not being used to fund the gala event, but instead to repay a debt that was not owed by the DFB," the attorney general's office statement said.

"In particular, it is suspected that the suspects wilfully misled their fellow members of the executive board of the organising committee for the 2006 World Cup.

"This was presumably done by the use of false pretences or concealment of the truth, thus inducing the other committee members to act in a manner that caused DFB a financial loss."

Beckenbauer, a former World Cup-winning player and coach, has been the focus of the affair around the payments connected to the 2006 World Cup, and which led to the resignation last year of Niersbach as DFB president.

Law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, hired by the DFB to investigate, reported in March it found no evidence of vote-buying, but outlined new unclear payments including from an account held by Beckenbauer.

There was no immediate reaction from Beckenbauer or his management to the Swiss investigation, while Zwanziger told dpa the allegations had "no substance."

Following the Freshfields report, Beckenbauer, 70, denied any wrongdoing. He told Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper he had only discovered as a result of the law firm's investigation that money from an account he held with his former manager went to a firm in Qatar owned by the banned former FIFA executive Mohammed Bin Hammam.

Beckenbauer has said he understood the money - totalling 10 million Swiss francs - was to be a pre-payment to FIFA to secure a grant of 250 million Swiss francs for the World Cup.

He also said he had no doubts about the integrity at the time of Bin Hammam, who was deputy chairman of the FIFA finance committee but has since been banned from football for life.

In November, German prosecuting authorities in Frankfurt opened an investigation on "suspicion of tax evasion in a particularly severe case" into Niersbach, Zwanziger and Schmidt into the payments linked to the 2006 World Cup. However Beckenbauer was not a subject of the investigation, a prosecution spokeswoman said at the time.

In July, FIFA's ethics committee banned council member Niersbach for one year from football-related activities in connection with the awarding of the 2006 World Cup to Germany. The ethics committee had in March opened an investigation into the awarding of the 2006 tournament, probing six officials including Beckenbauer, Niersbach and Zwanziger.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.