BY LIAM MORGAN
Three former German football officials have been indicted on fraud charges by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) as part of its investigation into a suspect payment linked to the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
The OAG said it had filed the indictment against former German Football Association (DFB) Presidents Wolfgang Niersbach and Theo Zwanziger and ex-secretary general Horst Schmidt, as well as former Swiss FIFA official Urs Linsi, regarding the €6.7 million (£6.2 million/$7.5 million) payment.
In a statement, the OAG said they are “alleged to have fraudulently misled the members of a supervisory body of the DFB Organising Committee for the 2006 World Cup in Germany in April 2005 about the true purpose” of the payment.
It has been alleged that the money was used to help bribe members of FIFA’s ruling Executive Committee, which has since been rebranded as the Council, who had a vote to decide the host of the 2006 World Cup.
The payment was reportedly made for an opening gala event which never took place.
The four men deny wrongdoing, while the DFB claim the payment was the return of personal loan taken out by Franz Beckenbauer from then Adidas chief executive Robert Louis-Dreyfus, which went through FIFA.
The same sum was allegedly given to banned former FIFA vice-president Mohammed bin Hammam by Beckenbauer.
The OAG said separate proceedings were ongoing against Beckenbauer, who served as the President of the Organising Committee for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Beckenbauer, who won the World Cup as a player in 1974 and as a manager in 1990, “is unable for health reasons to participate or to be questioned in the main hearing in the Federal Criminal Court”, the OAG added.
In its indictment, the OAG said Schmidt, Zwanziger and Linsi are accused of fraud and Niersbach of being complicit in fraud, while it has dropped allegations of money-laundering.
“The investigations have revealed that in summer 2002 Franz Beckenbauer accepted a loan of CHF10 million (£8.4 million/$10.3 million/€9.1 million) in his own name and for his own account from Robert Louis-Dreyfus,” the OAG added in its statement.
“This sum was used to fund various payments made via a Swiss law firm to a Qatari company belonging to Mohammed Bin Hammam.
“The exact purpose of the total payments of 10 million Swiss francs to Mohammed Bin Hammam could not be determined – also because a corresponding request for mutual legal assistance made by the OAG to the Qatari authorities in September 2016 remained unanswered until today.”
The OAG opened an investigation into the accusations, which prompted Niersbach to resign as DFB President, in 2016.
The German bid defeated South Africa by a narrow margin of 12 votes to 11 back in 2000 after New Zealand’s Charlie Dempsey abstained from the second round of voting after stating there had been “intolerable pressure” prior to the ballot.
A tax office in Frankfurt has already ordered the DFB to pay a total of €19.2 million (£17.1 million/$22.6 million) in back taxes on the payment.