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Thursday 27 October 2016

Franz Beckenbauer faces up to five years in jail in World Cup bribery case

Published 01/09/2016 | 16:04

Franz Beckenbauer
Franz Beckenbauer

Franz Beckenbauer is facing a criminal investigation in Switzerland over allegations of financial malpractice in Germany's successful bid to host the 2006 World Cup.

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The Attorney General of Switzerland named Beckenbauer, a World Cup winner as a player and manager with West Germany, as one of four men facing criminal proceedings.

The four are Beckenbauer, former German football association presidents Wolfgang Niersbach and Theo Zwanziger, and former general secretary Horst Rudolf Schmidt. All four were members of Germany's World Cup organising committee, with Beckenbauer its president.

A statement from the prosecutor said: "The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland has opened criminal proceedings in connection with the German Football Association (Deutscher Fussball- Bund (DFB)).

"The suspects were members of the executive board of the organising committee for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

"The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland opened criminal proceedings on 6 November 2015. The proceedings relate in particular to allegations of fraud, criminal mismanagement, money laundering and misappropriation.

"The suspects in the criminal proceedings are: Horst Rudolf Schmidt. Theo Zwanziger. Franz Beckenbauer. Wolfgang Niersbach."

Beckenbauer, 70, was implicated in an investigation commissioned by the German football association (DFB) into the alleged buying of votes to ensure Germany won the rights to stage the World Cup.

That investigation said that funds from an account Beckenbauer had jointly held later appeared in a Qatar account owned by the former FIFA executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam.

The Qatari was banned for life from all football-related activity in 2011 after being found guilty of bribery in relation to that year's FIFA presidential election.

The DFB-commissioned report into the 2006 World Cup bid was conducted by law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

It concluded a payment of 6.7million euros (£5.6million) from the DFB to Swiss-based world governing body FIFA in April 2005 could not be ruled out.

Beckenbauer has admitted that the payment was a ''mistake'', but has strenuously denied that the money was used to buy votes.

The report's authors concluded that a lack of evidence meant it could not be confirmed the payment had been used to obtain votes.

Beckenbauer travelled the world to gain support for Germany's bid, which was up against rival campaigns from England, South Africa, Morocco and Brazil. Brazil withdrew from the running days before the vote was held in July 2000.

Germany beat South Africa by 12 votes to 11 to secure the tournament, after Oceania delegate Charlie Dempsey, who was expected to vote for South Africa and has since died, abstained at the last minute.

The Attorney General of Switzerland's statement added: "The investigations focus on the joint financing of a gala event, initially at the cost of seven million euros (£5.9million), later reduced to 6.7million euros. It is suspected that the suspects knew that this sum was not being used to fund the gala event, but instead to repay a debt that was not owed by the DFB.

"In particular, it is suspected that the suspects wilfully misled their fellow members of the executive board of the organising committee for the 2006 World Cup.

"This was presumably done by the use of false pretences or concealment of the truth, thus inducing the other committee members to act in a manner that caused DFB a financial loss.

"Swiss jurisdiction in the proceedings is based on the fact that certain of the alleged criminal acts were carried out in Switzerland, which is also the suspected place of unlawful enrichment.

"In close co-ordination and co-operation with the competent authorities in Austria and Germany and with the support of the Federal Office of Police (fedpol), searches of premises or searches on a co-operative basis for the collection of evidence were carried out in eight separate locations at the same time today.

"In addition, various suspects were questioned by or on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland."

Press Association

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