FIFA 'disappointed' as trial involving German football officials closes without verdict

Omnisport

A trial involving a number of leading German football officials is to finish without a verdict due to the statute of limitations expiring, leaving FIFA "deeply disappointed".

Franz Beckenbauer was one of four prominent German football figures investigated regarding allegations related to fraud, linked to payments alleged to have been made when the quartet were on the executive board of the organising committee for the 2006 World Cup.

Beckenbauer was not indicted due to health reasons.

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Three German officials - Theo Zwanziger, Horst Schmidt and Wolfgang Niersbach - were due to go on trial, along with former FIFA secretary general Urs Linsi, who is Swiss.

The investigation centred on the use of €7million – later reduced to €6.7m – which was supposed to be used to finance a gala, but was instead, the Swiss attorney general alleged, "to repay a debt that was not owed by the DFB [German Football Association]".

A DFB investigation in February 2016, attempting to explain the payments, linked Beckenbauer - who won the World Cup as a player and as a manager - with former FIFA executive Mohamed bin Hammam and the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who was Adidas chief.

It led to claims the money had been used to purchase votes for the 2006 World Cup, allegations that Beckenbauer strenuously denied. He did accept the use of the funds - for a "FIFA subsidy" - was a mistake.

A statement from Switzerland's Federal Criminal Court confirmed on Tuesday the case could not "be concluded with a judgement" after the statute of limitations expired due to the coronavirus pandemic.

FIFA later insisted it will not give up on justice, with its statement reading: "FIFA is deeply disappointed that the trial related to the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 will not take place because it has now become time barred.

"For its part, FIFA fully cooperated with this investigation over the years, responding to many requests made by the Office of the Attorney General and incurring significant costs and management time in doing so. The fact that the case has now ended without a result of any kind is very worrying, not only for football but also for the administration of justice in Switzerland.

"We hope that the truth around the CHF 10 million payment will one day come to light and that those having committed wrongful acts will be duly sanctioned, if not in Switzerland, then maybe somewhere else.

"For FIFA this case is certainly not over as we cannot and will not accept that a CHF 10 million payment is made from FIFA accounts without a proper reason. Even if this has happened many years ago and was symptomatic for the old FIFA, FIFA's independent ethics committee will continue to investigate on this and other similar matters.

"Furthermore, FIFA will continue to cooperate with all state law enforcement agencies, including those in Switzerland, in the hope and belief that all those responsible for causing harm to football will finally be held to account for their actions and will not be able to hide forever with their ill-gotten gains."

Criminal proceedings for alleged fraud or assistance to fraud in Switzerland cannot be initiated after 15 years have passed.

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