By Andrew Warshaw
June 29 – FIFA president Gianni Infantino says the organisation has not given up getting its money back following the collapse of the 2006 World Cup fraud trial in Switzerland, insisting the story “is not finished” and hinting FIFA’s ethics apparatus is pursuing its own investigation.
Prosecutors alleged that one-time German Football Association (DFB) leaders Theo Zwanziger, Wolfgang Niersbach and Horst Schmidt plus former FIFA number two Urs Linsi misled the DFB about the destination of a CHF10 million (€6.7 million payment). Germany’s 2006 bid committee chief Franz Beckenbauer, who has been entangled in the case from the start, was not charged because of ill-health.
All three prominent former German football supremos escaped punishment when a statute of limitations, hindered by the coronavirus pandemic, expired in April and the case caved in with no judgement.
The money in question was said at the time to have been the return of a loan via FIFA from the late Adidas chief executive Robert Louis-Dreyfus. But investigators noted the DFB had earmarked the payment as a contribution to a World Cup gala event which never actually took place.
Allegations have long been rife that the original payment was used as a slush fund to help buy votes to land the 2006 World Cup. Germany ended up controversially edging out South Africa by a single vote to win 12-11 for the right to stage the tournament dubbed the “summer fairy tale” by organisers.
The Swiss attorney general’s office (OAG) claimed the money ended up with a Qatari company belonging to the now disgraced Mohamed Bin Hammam, then a member of the FIFA executive committee and the FIFA finance committee, who was banned for life for various offences in 2011.
Shortly after the case collapsed in April, FIFA issued a strongly-worded statement saying that it “fully cooperated” with the investigation over the years “incurring significant costs and management time in doing so.”
It said it was “deeply disappointed” there was no judgement and Infantino himself has now intervened, making it clear FIFA would not give up without a fight.
“Of course we are not happy with the way the process was concluded,” Infantino told reporters last week at a virtual press conference following the FIFA Congess.
“Just because the process was not concluded in time, it doesn’t mean ….we are going to sit down as if nothing happened. Ten million Swiss francs were paid out of a FIFA account.
“Even if it was many, many years ago – much earlier than when I became FIFA president – it’s something we cannot just sit still about and accept.”
Infantino hinted strongly that those accused could still be held to account by FIFA’s ethics personnel.
“We will continue to analyse this and we also have our ethics bodies as well who are looking into it. Obviously they were all waiting for the outcome of the Swiss criminal process.”
“The story has not finished. Even if it concerns the past, we will not accept that 10 million Swiss francs can just go out without a proper reason.”
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