German former football officials go on trial over questionable payments for the 2006 World Cup

Prosecutors allege defendants hid money flows linked to Franz Beckenbauer and Qatari official

German soccer officials improperly claimed tax relief on suspicious payments linked to Franz Beckenbauer and a Qatari who helped decide the 2006 World Cup host nation, prosecutors told a Frankfurt court on Monday.

German former football officials go on trial over questionable payments for the 2006 World Cup

The tax case against three former senior soccer officials has reopened the controversy over how Germany, more than two decades ago, won FIFA’s support to host a tournament known as Sommermarchen, or Summer Fairy Tale. is referred to as.

The lawsuit, which is the result of a years-long investigation, is based on payments involving the late soccer star Beckenbauer, the late former Adidas boss Robert Louis-Dreyfus, Qatar’s former FIFA official Mohammed bin Hammam and the German Football Association.

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Rather than focus on potential corruption, prosecutors brought more narrow charges of serious tax evasion against former German Football Association [DFB] presidents Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach, as well as former treasurer Horst Schmidt. If found guilty, he could face up to 10 years in jail.

The lawyers of all three argued that the allegations were baseless. Schmidt’s lawyer Tilman Reichling said, “The World Cup was not bought and there was no ill-funding.”

Zwanziger’s lawyer Hans-Jörg Metz accused prosecutors of conducting a biased investigation where “persecuting celebrities appears to be more important than uncovering the truth”.

Beckenbauer, the famous defender who won the World Cup for Germany as both a player and coach, took a personal loan of 10 million Swiss francs from French businessman Louis-Dreyfus in 2002, prosecutors said on Monday.

The money was then transferred to a Qatar-based company owned by a FIFA official who had voted in the selection of the 2006 World Cup host nation, which Germany won with a majority in 2000.

Prosecutors told the court that three years later, the DFB repaid the loan to Dreyfus on behalf of Beckenbauer, paying €6.7 million through FIFA to conceal the true nature of the transaction.

In 2016 German Football Association officials presented the findings of an investigation that found no evidence that money was used to buy support for Germany’s World Cup bid © Arne Dedert/EPA
The questionable payment, which was exposed almost a decade later, triggered corruption investigations into the DFB, FIFA and the Swiss criminal court, which ended inconclusively. Beckenbauer, who died in January at the age of 78, always denied any wrongdoing.

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In their investigation, Frankfurt prosecutors focused their attention on the tax implications of the DFB payment to Dreyfus, arguing that the football association wrongly treated the payment as a business expense and therefore illegally claimed tax relief. Claimed.

They allege that the DFB conspired with a FIFA official to conceal that the football association was covering Beckenbauer’s personal debts, and routed the money through FIFA, which transferred it to Dreyfus.

The DFB payment to FIFA was officially linked to a gala night, to be held during the World Cup in Germany. However, that event was never held, and FIFA paid Dreyfus €6.7 million within a day, prosecutors argued on Monday.

FIFA closed its investigation into the matter in 2021 as the statute of limitations for initiating legal proceedings had expired.

An investigation conducted by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in 2016 on behalf of the DFB concluded that the DFB deliberately concealed the fact that it was repaying a personal loan from Beckenbauer. But no evidence was found that the money was used to buy support for Germany’s World Cup bid.

The trial continues in Frankfurt.

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