Fifa headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. Picture: REUTERS/RUBEN SPRICH
Fifa headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. Picture: REUTERS/RUBEN SPRICH

Zurich — Swiss federal prosecutors have filed fraud charges against three former, senior German soccer officials over a suspect payment linked to the 2006 World Cup hosted by Germany, the Swiss attorney-general’s office said on Tuesday.

The indictment alleges that former German Football Association (DFB) presidents Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach; senior DFB official Horst Schmidt; and former Swiss Fifa official Urs Linsi misled members of a DFB body about the true purpose of a payment of about €6.7m, a statement said.

The four men have denied any wrongdoing.

Proceedings against German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, who is also under investigation in the case, are continuing separately because his health problems make it impossible to question him, the attorney-general’s office (OAG) said.

Beckenbauer, a World Cup-winning player and coach for Germany, headed the 2006 World Cup organising committee.

Schmidt, Zwanziger and Linsi are accused of fraud, and Niersbach of being complicit in fraud in the charges. The OAG said it dropped its investigation of money-laundering allegations in the case in July.

“The investigations have revealed that in the summer of 2002, Franz Beckenbauer accepted a loan of 10-million Swiss francs in his own name and for his own account from [then Adidas CEO] 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,” the OAG said.

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 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 remains unanswered.” 

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.

The DFB did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A DFB-commissioned investigation in 2016 said the sum was the return of a loan via Fifa from Louis-Dreyfus. In October, a German court ruled there was no evidence to bring soccer officials to trial for suspected tax evasion over the payment.