Soccer

Swiss prosecutors indict four over payment linked to 2006 World Cup

AP, AFP-JIJI

Swiss prosecutors have charged three German organizers of the 2006 World Cup and a former FIFA official with involvement in fraud over the true purpose of a €6.7 million ($7.5 million) payment linked to soccer’s world governing body.

The Swiss attorney general’s office said Tuesday that Horst R. Schmidt, Theo Zwanziger and Swiss ex-FIFA general secretary Urs Linsi are accused of jointly committing fraud, while Wolfgang Niersbach is charged with being complicit in fraud. Zwanziger and Niersbach are former presidents of the German Football Association.

All four have denied the claims.

“This whole Swiss campaign is wretched, malicious and will completely fail, because I have nothing to reproach myself for,” Zwanziger told AFP subsidiary SID.

“These incompetent investigators are banging their heads against a brick wall, and the wall will always win. The whole thing has long been a judiciary scandal and there has been no truly reproachable behavior on the part of the accused.”

The office said that proceedings against Franz Beckenbauer, who headed the World Cup organizing committee, will be conducted separately because he is currently “unable for health reasons” to participate in the main proceedings.

The payment in April 2005 was falsely declared as being for a World Cup opening gala.

The announcement comes at the end of an investigation which opened in November 2015 into a payment of €6.7 million made in 2005 by the DFB to Robert Louis-Dreyfus, former head of Adidas, a partner of the DFB.

The German weekly Der Spiegel broke the story in late October 2015 when it claimed that Germany used a secret fund of 10 million Swiss francs (€6.7 million at the time) to buy votes in the bid to stage the 2006 World Cup.

“This sum was used to fund various payments made via a Swiss law firm to a Qatari company belonging to Mohammed Bin Hammam,” the statement said.

At the time, Bin Hammam was a member of the FIFA Executive Committee and the FIFA Finance Committee.

In May 2018, Zwanziger was charged along with other former German soccer officials for “aggravated tax fraud” in the case.

But the procedure was abandoned five months later, for lack of evidence. However, the prosecution have since appealed the decision.

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