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Swiss authorities expand 2006 World Cup probe

Swiss prosecutors looking into corruption allegations surrounding the 2006 World Cup have conducted another series of raids. This came as the list of suspects grew to include a former senior FIFA official.

The Swiss Attorney General's Office confirmed on Wednesday that the investigation targeting leading members of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee had been expanded to include Urs Linsi (pictured above, left), the former secretary general of football's world governing body, FIFA.

Switzerland's top prosecution authority said in a statement to the AFP news agency "that on 23 November 2016 it conducted house searches with the support of the Federal Office of Police (fedpol) at various locations in the German-speaking part of Switzerland."

The searches were part of an investigation launched last year into allegations of fraud, criminal mismanagement, money laundering and misappropriation connected with the awarding of the right to host the 2006 World Cup to Germany.

The probe initially targeted footballing legend Franz Beckenbauer, who headed Germany's successful bid for the 2006 tournament as well as the committee that went on to organize it. Organizing committee members Hans-Rudolf Schmidt, Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach were also named as suspects when the investigation began in November 2015.

However, Wednesday's statement said Linsi, who was FIFA secretary general from June 1999 through June 2007, was now also a suspect, and that "the measures carried out on 23 November 2016 relate to Urs Linsi," who until last week was president of a small Zurich bank.

The Attorney General's Office also confirmed that last week's searches were linked to "a payment of 6.7 million euros ($7.1 million) made in April 2005 by the German football association (DFB) to Robert Louis-Dreyfus."

Dubious payment

The scandal surrounding the awarding of the 2005 World Cup started with a report published by "Spiegel" in October 2015. The news magazine reported that to swing the 2000 vote in Germany's favor, the committee headed by Beckenbauer had borrowed 10.3 million Swiss francs (6.7 million euros, $7.49 million at the time) from the late Louis-Dreyfus, who was then the CEO of German sportswear giant Adidas. It also reported that the same amount was paid back to Louis-Dreyfus through a FIFA account in 2005. The money was declared as being for a cultural event, which never took place.

A probe completed earlier this year by a law firm that the DFB hired to look into the allegations, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer,  found no evidence that the 2006 World Cup was bought.

pfd/dv (SID, dpa, AFP)

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