FIFA opens World Cup 2006 probe against Beckenbauer

Franz Beckenbauer (right) and former FIFA President Sepp Blatter in calmer times Keystone

German football legend Franz “The Kaiser” Beckenbauer is among six officials being investigated by the FIFA Ethics Committee over the awarding to Germany of the 2006 World Cup. 

This content was published on March 22, 2016 - 16:13 with agencies

The ethics committee of Zurich-based FIFA, world football’s governing body, opened a formal bribery investigation on Tuesday against Beckenbauer and five officials from Germany’s 2006 World Cup bid team: former German Football Association (DFB) chief Wolfgang Niersbach, who resigned over the affair last year, his predecessor Theo Zwanziger, Helmut Sandrock, Horst Schmidt and Stefan Hans.

The ethics prosecutors acted amid growing suspicion of wrongdoing linked to the winning of hosting rights in 2000 and irregular seven-figure payments years later. Germany won by beating South Africa, whose bid was supported by Nelson Mandela, 12-11 in a vote of FIFA executive committee members. 

“In the cases of Mr Beckenbauer, Dr Zwanziger, Mr Schmidt and Mr Hans, the investigatory chamber will investigate possible undue payments and contracts to gain an advantage in the 2006 FIFA World Cup host selection and the associated funding,” the investigatory chamber of FIFA’s ethics committee said in a statement.

Zwanziger replaced Beckenbauer on the FIFA executive committee member in 2011; Horst Schmidt was vice-president of the World Cup organising panel, Helmut Sandrock was former secretary general of the DFB and Stefan Hans was former chief financial officer of the DFB.

Web of accounts

A report published in Der Spiegel magazine in October 2015 claimed the organising committee had set up a slush fun of CHF10.3 million ($10.6 million) to buy votes and secure the right to stage the World Cup.

Niersbach has previously insisted the committee behind the bid to host the World Cup had acted both “fairly” and “legally”. 

A DFB-commissioned report revealed this month that while there was no evidence of Germany paying FIFA members in return for their votes, payments were made to at least one former FIFA official through a web of accounts involving several other firms or individuals, including Beckenbauer. 

Beckenbauer, a World Cup-winning player and coach who headed the 2006 World Cup organising committee, admitted making mistakes but denied any wrongdoing over the tournament in Germany. He said he knew nothing of a multi-million dollar payment to a disgraced former FIFA official in Qatar. 

Investigations by German prosecutors and tax officials into the 2006 World Cup forced Niersbach and Sandrock to resign in recent months.

Swiss federal prosecutors are also investigating the 2006 World Cup allegations as part of a wider probe of FIFA’s business that has already put former president Sepp Blatter under criminal investigation. Switzerland is also conducting criminal proceedings into the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively.

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