By Andrew Warshaw
September 1 – Despite continually protesting his innocence over any involvement in manipulating the vote that handed Germany the 2006 World Cup, Franz Beckenbauer, his country’s most revered footballing figurehead who led the bid process, is being investigated by Swiss prosecutors as part of a corruption probe.
Back in March, FIFA’s ethics committee opened its own investigation into six individuals, including Beckenbauer, over potential vote buying and failure to report a breach of the FIFA ethics code. In Beckenbauer’s case, these include “possible undue payments and contracts to gain an advantage in the 2006 FIFA World Cup host selection and the associated funding”.
Beckenbauer, who headed the 2006 local organising committee and was a former member of the FIFA Executive Committee, was by far the most high profile of the six and Swiss prosecutors now say they have launched their own inquiry, linked to that of FIFA. News reports said their probe centred on alleged money laundering and breach of trust in connection with the award of the 2006 World Cup to Germany.
Also subject to the Swiss criminal investigation are former DFB presidents Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach as well as ex-DFB general secretary Horst R Schmidt.
The 2006 scandal was prompted by a payment from the DFB to FIFA, which the DFB said last year was the return of a loan via the ruling body from the late Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus.
Beckenbauer has vehemently denied any involvement in an alleged secret €6.7 million slush fund first reported by Der Spiegel. But in a statement last October, he said: “In order to get a subsidy from FIFA [for the organisation of the 2006 World Cup] those involved went ahead with a proposal from the FIFA finance commission that in today’s eyes should have been rejected.
“I, as president of the then-organising committee, bear the responsibility of this mistake.”
Germany ended up beating South Africa 12-11 in the hugely controversial ballot, which took place in July 2000.
Organisers of the 2006 World Cup have been under scrutiny ever since a 361-page report in February commissioned by the German football federation attempted to explain a trail of suspect payments.
Separate investigations by German prosecutors and tax officials led Niersbach and Helmut Sandrock to resign in recent months as president and general secretary of the DFB respectively. Niersbach, who played a prominent role in the German 2006 bid and organising committee, was recently banned by the FIFA ethics committee for one year for failing to disclose suspected wrongdoing. He plans to appeal.
In a media release, the Swiss attorney general’s office later confirmed the probe naming those involved and revealing the inquiry “focussed on the joint financing of a gala event, initially at the cost of EUR 7 million, later reduced to EUR 6.7 million.”
“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. 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.”
The full statement is as follows:
“The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland has opened criminal proceedings in connection with the German Football Association (Deutscher FussballBund (DFB)). The suspects were members of the executive board of the organising committee for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland opened criminal proceedings on 6 November 2015. The proceedings relate in particular to allegations of fraud (Art. 146 Swiss Criminal Code (SCC)), criminal mismanagement (Art.158 SCC), money laundering (Art. 305bis SCC) and misappropriation (Art. 138 SCC).
The suspects in the criminal proceedings are: – Horst Rudolf Schmidt – Theo Zwanziger – Franz Beckenbauer – Wolfgang Niersbach The four persons named were members of the executive board of the organising committee for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The presumption of innocence applies to all four.
The investigations focus on the joint financing of a gala event, initially at the cost of EUR 7 million, later reduced to EUR 6.7 million. 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. 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.
Swiss jurisdiction in the proceedings is based on the fact that certain of the alleged criminal acts were carried out in Switzerland, which is also the suspected place of unlawful enrichment. In close coordination and cooperation with the competent authorities in Austria and Germany and with the support of the Federal Office of Police (fedpol), searches of premises or searches on a Football: Criminal proceedings in connection with the German Football Association (DFB) Seite 2 / 2 cooperative basis for the collection of evidence were carried out in eight separate locations at the same time today.
In addition, various suspects were questioned by or on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland. No further details of the ongoing criminal proceedings can be given at this time.”
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