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DFB reportedly set for board meeting over World Cup payment

The German football association may be set to hold an extraordinary board meeting after its headquarters was raided by police. This came as part of a probe into possible tax evasion linked to the 2006 World Cup.

A regional football official said on Thursday that he believed that an extraordinary meeting could be held ahead of the board's next scheduled get-together next month.

Erwin Bugar, head of the football federation in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, told MDR public radio that he and other members of the board had heard signals that the DFB (German FA) was considering calling an extraordinary meeting. He noted though, that it could take some time to organize, as the board is made up of more than 40 people.

Raids on four premises

Bugar also expressed his support for DFB President Wolfsgang Niersbach, who hasn't been heard of since Tuesday's raids. "The presumption of innocence applies to him," Bugar said.

The Frankfurt prosecutors' office has identified the current DFB president as one of three suspects that it is targeting in the tax-evasion investigation.

Police on Tuesday searched the DFB headquarters

as well as the homes of Niersbach, his predecessor, Theo Zwanziger, and former DFB General Secretary Horst R. Schmidt in connection with a payment made in 2005 by the World Cup organizing committee to FIFA of 6.7 million euros (7.4 million dollars).

Nadja Niesen, the senior state prosecutor in Frankfurt said the raids were carried out "over suspicions of tax evasion in a particularly serious case," and related to the payment to FIFA.

Niesen, who noted that only the individuals and not the DFB itself were being investigated, added that if convicted, the trio could each face jail sentences of between six months and 10 years.

'Spiegel' article

This was just the latest development in a scandal that began last month with a story published by "Spiegel" newsmagazine. It reported that a loan of 10 million Swiss francs made by the late former

Adidas

CEO Louis -Dreyfus was used to buy the votes of four Asian members of FIFA's Executive Committee in 2000, when Germany won the right to host the 2006 tournament.

According to the story, the 2005 payment was to reimburse Louis-Dreyfus - a point that all involved in the scandal seem to agree on.

DFB denial

However, both Niersbach, who was vice president of the organizing committee and its president, Franz Beckenbauer have denied that any votes were bought. Niersbach has said that the original payment from Louis-Dreyfus wasn't made until 2002, long after Germany had been awarded the World Cup.

There were "no slush funds, no votes were bought, Niersbach said

at a press conference late last month. He said that the funds were actually paid to FIFA to unclock subsidies to organizes the tournament.

A statement released by Beckenbauer last week

supported Niersbach's account of the story. Beckenbauer is not a target of the tax-evasion probe.

pfd/rd (dpa, SID, AP)

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