ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss federal prosecutors have filed fraud charges against three former senior German soccer officials and one Swiss over a suspect payment linked to the 2006 World Cup hosted by Germany, the Swiss Attorney General’s office said on Tuesday.
The indictment alleges former German Football Association (DFB) presidents Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach, senior DFB official Horst Schmidt and former Swiss FIFA official Urs Linsi misled members of a DFB body about the true purpose of a payment of about 6.7 million euros (£6.15 million), a statement here said.
The four men have denied any wrongdoing.
Proceedings against German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, who is also under investigation in the case, are continuing separately because his health problems made it impossible to question him, the Attorney General’s Office (OAG) said.
Beckenbauer, a World Cup-winning player and coach for Germany, headed the 2006 World Cup organising committee.
Schmidt, Zwanziger and Linsi are accused of fraud and Niersbach of being complicit in fraud in the charges. The OAG said it dropped last month its investigation of money-laundering allegations in the case.
“The investigations have revealed that in summer 2002 Franz Beckenbauer accepted a loan of 10 million Swiss francs in his own name and for his own account from Robert Louis-Dreyfus. This sum was used to fund various payments made via a Swiss law firm to a Qatari company belonging to Mohammed Bin Hammam,” the OAG said.
At the time, Bin Hammam was a member of the FIFA Executive Committee and the FIFA Finance Committee.
“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,” it added.
The payment in question triggered several investigations and led to Niersbach’s resignation over allegations it was used as a slush fund to buy votes in favour of Germany’s bid to host the 2006 tournament.
Zwanziger headed the DFB from 2006 to 2012 and was succeeded by Niersbach until his resignation in the fallout from the scandal in 2015.
The DFB said it would seek damages should its reputation be tarnished by the case and the actions of those indicted.
“Should the DFB suffer damages because of the wrong behaviour of the accused then it is legally obliged to consider and proceed with any claim for compensation,” the DFB said in a statement.
A DFB-commissioned investigation in 2016 said the sum was the return of a loan via FIFA from former Adidas chief Louis-Dreyfus.
A German court in October ruled there was no evidence to bring soccer officials to trial for suspected tax evasion over the payment.
Reporting by Thomas Seythal; Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann, Editing by Michael Shields and Sudipto Ganguly