Swiss indict former German football officials over World Cup payment

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Swiss federal prosecutors filed fraud charges against three former German soccer officials and one Swiss over a suspect payment, which was linked to the 2006 World Cup hosted by Germany, to a Qatari company.

The indictment names former German Football Association presidents Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach, senior official Horst Schmidt and former Swiss Fifa official Urs Linsi.

It claims they misled members of the German association about the purpose of a payment of 10 million Swiss francs, the Swiss Attorney General said.

The four men have denied any wrongdoing.

Proceedings against German football great Franz Beckenbauer, who is also under investigation, are continuing separately because his health problems made it impossible to question him, the Attorney General’s office said.

Beckenbauer, a World Cup-winning player and coach for Germany, led the 2006 World Cup organising committee.

Mr Schmidt, Mr Zwanziger and Mr Linsi are accused of fraud and Mr Niersbach of being complicit in fraud.

The Attorney General’s office 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 10m Swiss francs in his own name and for his own account from [French businessman] Robert Louis-Dreyfus,” the office said.

“This sum was used to fund various payments made via a Swiss law firm to a Qatari company belonging to Mohammed bin Hammam.

At the time, Mr bin Hammam was a member of the Fifa executive and finance committees.

“The exact purpose of the total payments of 10m Swiss francs to Mohammed bin Hammam could not be determined, also because a corresponding request for mutual legal assistance made to the Qatari authorities in September 2016 remained unanswered until today,” the office said.

The payment triggered several investigations and led to Mr Niersbach’s resignation over claims that it was used to buy votes in favour of Germany’s bid to host the 2006 tournament.

Mr Zwanziger led the German association from 2006 to 2012, and was succeeded by Mr Niersbach until his resignation in the fallout from the scandal in 2015.

The association 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,” it said.

An investigation commissioned by the association in 2016 found the sum was the return of a loan through Fifa to Mr Louis-Dreyfus, former chief executive of Adidas.

A German court in October ruled there was no evidence to bring football officials to trial for suspected tax evasion over the payment