Franz Beckenbauer probe to be split from World Cup investigation | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 19.07.2019
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Franz Beckenbauer probe to be split from World Cup investigation

Swiss prosecutors plan to separate Franz Beckenbauer's case from the broader investigation into corruption in Germany's successful 2006 World Cup bid. It's not clear why, though Beckenbauer has been in poor health.

Switzerland's federal public prosecutors' office on Friday confirmed that it would split investigations into Franz Beckenbauer from the broader case against Germany's successful World Cup bid in 2006.

The Swiss authorities said that they had "informed all affected parties of the intention to split the investigation against the accused Franz Beckenbauer and to continue it separately." 

Investigators did not comment on their reasons, but Beckenbauer is known to have been in poor health and reports have circulated that he may not be deemed fit enough to stand trial or potentially face prison. Beckenbauer has undergone two heart operations (in 2016 and 2017), a 2018 hip replacement, and shared news of an eye infection in the past week.

'Of course we'll massively contest this' 

The former president of Germany's DFB football association, Theo Zwanziger, told German news agency dpa that he would challenge any bid to ring-fence investigations into Beckenbauer. 

"Of course we will massively contest this attempt at separation with the Swiss prosecutors' office," Zwanziger said. "It's not okay to absolve one of the accused of responsibility." 

Zwanziger was head of the DFB at the time; Beckenbauer — who would later take a place on FIFA's executive committee — was in charge of organizing the 2006 World Cup bid, and later the competition itself.

Another of the accused, Wolfgang Niersbach, declined to comment on developments in an ongoing investigation.

From left to right: Horst Schmidt, Theo Zwanziger, Franz Beckenbauer and Wolfgang Niersbach, pictured in 2005 in Frankfurt. (picture-alliance/dpa/DB Kunz)

From left to right: Horst Schmidt, Theo Zwanziger, Franz Beckenbauer and Wolfgang Niersbach, pictured in 2005 in Frankfurt.

What's the case about, and who is implicated? 

Swiss prosecutors are looking into potential charges including embezzlement and money laundering. 

The investigation revolves around a €6.7 million ($7.5 million at today's exchange rate) payment from the DFB. The money was declared as partial financing for a gala, which never took place. The money allegedly went instead to the former Adidas CEO Robert Louis-Dreyfus, via FIFA. Three years prior, the same sum was allegedly transferred by Beckenbauer and Louis-Dreyfus to Qatar's Mohamed bin Hammam — a former candidate for the FIFA presidency who was issued a lifelong ban for corruption in 2012, after evidence emerged of him trying to buy votes for the presidency. Similar chicanery is suspected in this instance, this time concerning votes for Germany's 2006 World Cup bid.

Read more:  Ex-FIFA official confirms payment from German account, denies World Cup bribe

Besides Beckenbauer, the investigation affects the following people: 

  • Theo Zwanziger, former president of the DFB (2006-2012). 
  • Wolfgang Niersbach, Zwanziger's successor at the DFB (2012-2015), also Beckenbauer's deputy and press spokesman for the 2006 World Cup organizing committee.  
  • Former DFB secretary-general (effectively second-in-command) Horst Schmidt. 
  • FIFA secretary-general (again, second-in-command) between 2002 and 2007, Urs Linsi.

A comparable tax evasion investigation by German prosecutors, also tied to the 2006 World Cup bid, was launched and then abandoned last year. 

msh/jh  (dpa, SID)

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