KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Franz Beckenbauer is under criminal investigation by the Swiss authorities over payments allegedly linked to Germany’s success in winning host rights to the 2006 World Cup.
Also under investigation, according to the Office of Swiss Attorney-General Michael Lauber, are former German federation presidents Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach as well as ex-DFB general secretary Horst R Schmidt.
All four men, who deny wrongdoing, face allegations of fraud, criminal mismanagement, money-laundering and misappropriation of funds.
Beckenbauer, greatest name in German football history as World Cup-winning captain then manager, was chairman of the 2006 bid committee. Later he became president of the organising committee after Germany beat South Africa 12-11 in a controversial FIFA executive committee vote in July 2000.
A statement from Lauber’s office indicated that the investigation centred on suspicions that a plan for a €6.7m World Cup Opening Ceremony – never staged – had been a cover “to repay a debt that was not owed by the DFB.”
The statement added: “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.”
Further details concerning the German World Cup bid scandal had been uncovered by an inquiry which the DFB commissioned from the Freshfields law firm after last year’s initial revelations.
Freshfields reported that between May and July 2002 four tranches of SFr6m were paid by a Swiss law firm from a joint account in the names of Beckenbauer and his then manager Robert Schwan to a company in Qatar named Kemco, controlled by the then Asian confederation president Mohammed Bin Hammam**.
In August 2002 Louis-Dreyfus sent SFr 10m to the Swiss law firm of which SFr 6m reverted to Beckenbauer and the remaining SFr 4m to Kemco.
Almost three years later, in April 2005, the DFB paid €6.7m [the equivalent of SFr10m plus interest] to FIFA, referencing a World Cup cultural programme. FIFA sent the money to Louis-Dreyfus.
The news magazine Der Spiegel has suggested that the mysterious SFr 10m might have been used for a slush fund to influence votes of members of the FIFA exco. This has been refuted by Beckenbauer, Zwanziger and Niersbach.
Tax evasion case
Late last year the German prosecutor’s office in Frankfurt launched an investigation into possible tax evasion by DFB officials in 2006. However the Swiss investigation widens the issue formally into the area of criminality and corruption.
Jurisdiction is ‘owned’ by the OAG on the grounds of the monies being passed through the Swiss banking system. This is the same concept effected by the United States Justice Department for its FIFAGate investigation throughout Latin and North America.
In the Swiss case the charges carry a maximum of five years’ jail.
The fall-out from the revelations about the SFr 10m have already been extensive in terms of German and international football administration. It prompted the launch in March of a FIFA ethics committee inquiry into the conduct of Beckenbauer, Niersbach and Theo Zwanziger – Germany’s three most powerful football leaders over the past decade – plus former DFB officials Schmidt, Helmut Sandrock and Stefan Hans.
Schmidt and Sandrock were former DFB general secretaries while Hans was chief financial officer until being sacked by Niersbach last autumn over the issue. Hans is currently suing the DFB for wrongful dismissal.
Beckenbauer, after the 2006 World Cup, became a member of the executive committees of both FIFA and European federation UEFA. As such he was a member of the FIFA exco which voted controversially, in December 2010, to stage the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar respectively.
Later, in February of this year, Beckenbauer was cautioned and fined SFr7,000 by the FIFA ethics committee for obstructing its inquiry into those World Cup awards.
Change of guard
In fact the honorary president of Bayern Munich had stepped down from his committee work in 2011 when he was succeeded in FIFA and UEFA by then DFB president Zwanziger.
Back in 2006 Zwanziger had been treasurer of the DFB and joint president alongside veteran politician Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder. After the World Cup Zwanziger took over the sole presidency which he held until he was ousted by Niersbach in the spring of 2012.
Niersbach had been communications director of the 2006 bid and organising committees. He later became general secretary and chief executive of the DFB before retiring on a lucrative pension which ‘freed’ him to take over from the embittered Zwanziger.
Schmidt, for years, was considered as perhaps the most able football administrator in European if not world football until being succeeded by Niersbach in 2007. Schmidt then served as ‘progress chaser’ for FIFA in South Africa ahead of the 2010 World Cup finals.
Hans was dismissed by the DFB last year over the payments issue while Sandrock resigned just ahead of publication of the Freshfields report.
The pressure has told on Beckenbauer. He stepped down earlier this year from his long-running role as a TV football analyst after a wretched personal 12 months which included the death from cancer of his son Stephan.
He has always denied that money was paid for votes while claiming that, during his World Cup bidding and organising tenures, he had always “signed without reading” whatever documents had been put in front of him.
** Mohamed Bin Hammam was banned in 2011 from all football by the FIFA ethics committee over the misuse of Asian Football Confederation funds; earlier he had successfully overturned a FIFA ban imposed for his role in events surrounding the 2011 presidential election.