Beckenbauer FIFA ethics case dropped after time runs out

German Football Museum opens Hall of Fame, a permanent exhibition honouring German soccer legends in Dortmund

By Simon Evans

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - FIFA's Ethics committee says it cannot prosecute German former World Cup winner Franz Beckenbauer and two other German football officials in an alleged bribery case due to time running out on the case.

FIFA's investigatory chamber concluded in 2016 that Beckenbauer, Theo Zwanziger and Horst Schmidt had broken the organisation's rules on bribery and corruption during the successful German bid campaign for the hosting rights to the 2006 World Cup. All three men have denied wrongdoing.

FIFA said the offences were "in relation to a payment of CHF 10 million ($11 million) made by, or on behalf of, the Organising Committee (OC) to Mr Mohamed bin Hammam in 2002. This payment was linked to the approval of a financial contribution of CHF 250 million allocated and paid by FIFA to the OC between 2002 and 2006."

FIFA's ethics committee said that the cases could no longer be dealt with due to the expiry of statute of limitations.

"The relevant limitation period had expired in 2012 for the conduct of Mr Beckenbauer, and in 2015 for the conduct of both Mr Zwanziger and Mr Schmidt, which entailed that their conduct can no longer be prosecuted in accordance with article 12 of (the FIFA ethics code)," the committee said.

In 2016, FIFA imposed a warning and a 7,000 Swiss franc fine on Beckenbauer for failing to cooperate with the investigation regarding the 2018/2022 World Cup bids.

The Beckenbauer case triggered an investigation from Swiss authorities but last year that passed the statute of limitations of five years to secure convictions leading to criticism of Switzerland's former Attorney General Michael Lauber.

Bin Hammam was given a lifetime ban from the game by FIFA for alleged bribery in a separate case, linked to his failed bid to oust then FIFA president Sepp Blatter in the organisation's election.

Beckenbauer was captain of West Germany's 1974 World Cup winning team and is considered one of the country's greatest players and one of the game's finest central defenders.

The 75-year-old later became the national team coach, as well as coaching Bayern Munich and French club Olympique de Marseille.

He was later president of Bayern and vice-president of the German Football Association (DFB).

(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar)