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Football investigations Swiss attorney general demands health check for Beckenbauer

Franz Beckenbauer at the 1899 Hoffenheim v Borussia Mönchengladbach match

Franz Beckenbauer at the 1899 Hoffenheim v Borussia Mönchengladbach match at the PreZero Arena at Sinsheim, Baden-Württemberg, on September 28, 2019

(Keystone / Uwe Anspach)

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has asked Austrian authorities to assess the health of German football legend Franz Beckenbauer to determine whether Swiss legal proceedings against him can continue. 

In a decision published on Tuesday, the Federal Criminal Court's Complaints Chamber dismissed appeals by former German Football Association (DFB) officials Theo Zwanziger, Wolfgang Niersbach and former FIFA General Secretary Urs Linsi against a separate Swiss legal proceeding initiated for Beckenbauer. 

In August it was reported that Swiss federal prosecutors had filed fraud charges against Zwanziger, Niersbach, former DFB official Horst Schmidt and Linsi over a suspect payment linked to the 2006 World Cup hosted by Germany. The indictment alleges they misled members of a DFB body about the true purpose of a payment of about €6.7 million euros ($7.5 million).

Swiss proceedings against Beckenbauer, who is also under investigation in the case, are continuing separately because his health problems made it impossible to question him. The 74-year-old football star, who helped coordinate Germany’s bid to stage the 2006 World Cup, reportedly lives in Kitzbühel, Austria. 

The accused have all denied any wrongdoing.

On Tuesday, the court said the separate Swiss legal proceedings were timely and correct. 

“Given Beckenbauer's state of health, it is not clear whether and when he will be able to take part in criminal proceedings. As the facts will be prescribed in April 2020, time is running out and a first instance judgment must imperatively take place by then,” it said.

OAG charges

According to the OAG, investigations revealed that in summer 2002 Beckenbauer accepted a loan of CHF10 million in his own name and for his own account from Robert Louis-Dreyfus. This sum was used to fund various payments made via a Swiss law firm to a Qatari company belonging to Mohammed Bin Hammam. At the time, Bin Hammam was a member of the FIFA Executive Committee and the FIFA Finance Committee.

"The exact purpose of the total payments of 10 million Swiss francs to Mohammed Bin Hammam could not be determined – also because a corresponding request for mutual legal assistance made by the OAG to the Qatari authorities in September 2016 remained unanswered until today," the OAG said in August. 

The payment in question triggered several investigations and led to Niersbach's resignation over allegations it was used as a slush fund to buy votes in favour of Germany's bid to host the 2006 tournament. Zwanziger headed the DFB from 2006 to 2012 and was succeeded by Niersbach until his resignation in the fallout from the scandal in 2015.

On August 26, Frankfurt's Higher Regional Court said Zwanziger, Niersbach, Schmidt and Linsi would stand trial for charges of tax evasion in relation to the €6.7 million payment linked to the 2006 World Cup. All four have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

SDA-Keystone/sb

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