Beckenbauer targeted in FIFA ethics probe

Franz Beckenbauer (right) with Sepp Blatter in 2010 Keystone

German football great Franz Beckenbauer and FIFA vice-president Ángel María Villar have been investigated by ethics prosecutors and are awaiting verdicts in their cases, says the ethics panel of world football’s governing body. 

This content was published on October 21, 2015 - 17:42 and agencies, and agencies

Both Beckenbauer and Villar – now serving as FIFA’s interim senior vice-president while President Sepp Blatter is suspended – have previously been identified by media as targets of the investigation into the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. 

Both men face sanctions for obstructing then-FIFA prosecutor Michael Garcia's investigation, ethics committee spokesman Marc Tenbuecken told The Associated Press.

With Garcia's inquiry failing to find evidence of corruption involving Russia and Qatar, it falls to a criminal investigation of suspected money laundering led by Switzerland's attorney general to ascertain whether there was any financial wrongdoing in those World Cup bidding contests. The Russian and Qatari awards have been tainted by five years of so-far unproven allegations.

The announcement inflicts more damage on FIFA, which is reeling from waves of corruption allegations that led the ethics committee two weeks ago to suspend Blatter and the front-runner to succeed him as president, Michel Platini. 

In a wide-ranging statement, the ethics committee said it aimed to judge Blatter and Platini within the 90 days of their suspensions. 

Blatter is also under criminal investigation by Swiss authorities for a suspected “improper payment” (“paiement déloyal”) of around $2 million (CHF1.9 million) from FIFA funds in 2011 to Platini. Both deny wrongdoing. 

UEFA embarrassment 

In a separate case, suspended FIFA secretary-general Jérôme Valcke is accused of “misuse of expenses and other infringements of FIFA’s rules and regulations”, the ethics committee said. 

Wednesday’s announcement comes the day after the FIFA executive committee agreed to lift strict secrecy rules it imposed on the ethics committee in 2012, and which ethics prosecutor Cornel Borbely and ethics judge Joachim Eckert argued were harming their work. 

Villar was second-in-command at that executive session on Tuesday, which also named him interim head of FIFA’s organising committee for the 2018 World Cup, replacing Platini. 

Public naming of the Spanish football federation president adds to embarrassment for UEFA, European football’s governing body, where Villar is the highest-ranking elected official after Platini was suspended by FIFA pending his ethics inquiry. 

Beckenbauer and former Spain international Villar were members of FIFA’s much-discredited executive committee when it chose Russia and Qatar as future World Cup hosts in December 2010. 

Ten of the 24 executive committee members in 2010 have now been banned or suspended from duty by the ethics panel. 

“If two other countries had emerged from the envelope, I think we would not have these problems today,” Blatter told the FIFA Congress in May. 

Beckenbauer’s refusal 

The Russian and Qatari wins – over losing bidders including England, Australia and the United States – provoked rifts among former allies and intense scrutiny of allegations of bribery, financial favours and rules-breaking voting pacts. 

Under pressure to investigate the allegations seriously, FIFA appointed former US Attorney Michael Garcia in July 2012 as its ethics prosecutor. 

Garcia delivered his investigation report to Eckert in September 2014 only after finding trouble dealing with Beckenbauer and Villar. 

Beckenbauer, who captained and coached World Cup-winning West Germany teams, twice refused to meet with Garcia and was barred from travelling to the World Cup in Brazil by a provisional suspension. It was lifted during the tournament when he sent answers to Garcia. 

Villar, a lawyer who chairs FIFA’s legal committee, tried to have Garcia thrown off the case in March 2014 after the prosecutor came to Zurich to question FIFA officials.

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