German football legend Beckenbauer faces corruption probe
Prosecutors in Switzerland have opened a criminal investigation into German football legend Franz Beckenbauer and three others over Germany's bid for the 2006 World Cup.
As members of that cup's organising committee, they are suspected of fraud, criminal mismanagement, money laundering and misappropriation.
Some of the alleged crimes were carried out on Swiss territory. Mr Beckenbauer, who headed the bid, has previously denied corruption. Last October, he said he had made a "mistake" in the bidding process to host the competition in 2000 but denied votes had been bought.
In March, football's world governing body Fifa began looking into six men for their part in Germany winning the rights to host the 2006 cup. After launching their own investigations, linked to those of Fifa, Swiss prosecutors named four suspects yesterday: Franz Beckenbauer, former vice-president of the German Football Association (DFB), president of the 2006 World Cup local organising committee (LOC) and former member of the Fifa executive committee; Wolfgang Niersbach, former president of the DFB, vice-president of the LOC and current member of the Fifa and Uefa executive committees; Theo Zwanziger, former president of the DFB, vice-president of the LOC and former member of the Fifa and Uefa executive committees; Horst Rudolf Schmidt, former secretary-general of the DFB and vice-president of the LOC.
Mr Beckenbauer's home in Austria was among eight properties searched yesterday.
Several suspects were also questioned, the prosecutors added. Germany beat South Africa 12-11 in the World Cup vote, which took place in July 2000.
The Swiss investigation centres on the use of €7m, later reduced to €6.7m, earmarked for a gala event. "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," prosecutors said in a statement.