March 12 – Former DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach (pictured) has made a surprise court appearance at the 2006 World Cup tax fraud trial – despite the advice of his doctor not to attend.
Niersbach is one of four defendants – three of them former high-ranking German officials -linked to suspicions that Germany bought votes to obtain the 2006 World Cup. The others are ex-FIFA Secretary General Urs Linsi, former DFB boss Theo Zwanziger and one-time DFB number two Horst Schmidt.
Linsi, who is Swiss, was the only one to come to court when the high-profile trial opened on Monday but after the others were warned they could be tried in absentia, Niersbach also made the decision to appear before the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona on Wednesday.
“I have to accept this health risk because I want to finally get rid of the nightmare of this four-year procedure,” Niersbach was quoted as saying, stressing that all allegations against him were baseless.
In view of the spread of the coronavirus, his lawyer again requested that the proceedings be stayed but the presiding judge Sylvia Frei refused.
The lawyers of Zwanziger and Schmidt accused the court of not respecting the human dignity of their clients, saying forcing them to appear was irresponsible and life-threatening.
The judge finally ordered an expert to assess whether Zwanziger and Schmidt were fit to travel.
All defendants deny any wrongdoing in the investigation of a €6.7 million payment in 2005 from the German FA (DFB) to FIFA. All four were all indicted last summer by Swiss prosecutors for allegedly fraudulently misleading members of a supervisory body of a DFB committee about the real destination of the payment.
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