FIFA fury over collapse of Germany 2006 World Cup bribery case

FIFA-headquarters

By Andrew Warshaw

April 28 – In a rare intervention indicative of its frustration verging on anger, FIFA has slammed the collapse of the 2006 World Cup fraud trial in Switzerland that allowed three prominent former German football supremos to escape a verdict.

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.

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.

The four defendants were all indicted last summer by Swiss prosecutors for allegedly collectively fraudulently misleading the DFB. All of them denied any wrongdoing but the case caved in this week when a statute of limitations, hindered by the coronavirus pandemic , expired.

The trial, which opened on March 9, had to be suspended until April 27,  pushing the case beyond the permitted time frame to secure convictions. That meant charges against the four were dropped.

In a strongly-worded statement FIFA did not mince its words.

“FIFA is deeply disappointed that the trial related to the 2006 FIFA World Cup (in) Germany will not take place because it has now become time barred,” it read.

“For its part, FIFA fully cooperated with this investigation over the years, responding to many requests made by the Office of the Attorney General and incurring significant costs and management time in doing so.”

“The fact that the case has now ended without a result of any kind is very worrying, not only for football but also for the administration of justice in Switzerland.”

FIFA said it hoped the case could still be prosecuted at some point given the unexplained funds going into and out of its account.

“We hope that the truth around the 10 million Swiss Francs (£8.3m) payment will one day come to light and that those having committed wrongful acts will be duly sanctioned, if not in Switzerland then maybe somewhere else.

“For FIFA this case is certainly not over as we cannot and will not accept that a 10m Swiss Francs payment is made from FIFA accounts without a proper reason.

“Even if this has happened many years ago and was symptomatic for (sic) the old FIFA, FIFA’s independent Ethics Committee will continue to investigate on this and other similar matters.

“Furthermore, FIFA will continue to cooperate with all state law enforcement agencies, including those in Switzerland, in the hope and belief that all those responsible for causing harm to football will finally be held to account for their actions and will not be able to hide forever with their ill-gotten gains.”

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