Swiss probe Beckenbauer, ex-DFB officials over World Cup payment

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.

Last update: Thu, 01/09/2016 - 22:36
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