Time is running out for the 2006 World Cup case trial | Sportsman | German football and major international sports news | DW
On Monday, the statute of limitations expired in a Swiss court case in which former German FA (DFB) Presidents Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach, as well as former DFB General Secretary Horst R. Schmidt and former Secretary FIFA general Urs Linsi had been facing allegations of fraud. This ended the Bellinzona trial without a verdict on any of the charges. Here we answer the key questions.
Read more: How Germany’s 2006 World Cup fairy tale turned sour
What were the former football leaders accused of?
The Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office had initially accused Zwanziger, Schmidt and Linsi of fraud, and Niersbach of complicity in fraud. These charges are punishable by prison terms of up to 10 years. Later, however, they were demoted to “unfair management”, which can lead to a sentence of up to three years behind bars. According to Swiss prosecutors, the defendants had engaged in “malicious deception”.
The case involved a questionable payment of 10 million Swiss francs (6.7 million euros, $ 7.5 million) on April 27, 2005, which the organizing committee for the 2006 World Cup transferred to Zurich-based world football governing body FIFA, declaring it to be a Gala Cup. However, the gala never took place. Instead, on the same day, the funds were liquidated into the Swiss account of French entrepreneur Robert Louis-Dreyfus – in repayment of a loan.
In 2002, Franz Beckenbauer, then chairman of the committee trying to bring the World Cup to Germany, received a loan of the same amount from Louis-Dreyfus, who was then head of sporting goods company Adidas. The funds were eventually paid into the bank accounts of Mohamed bin Hammam, who was FIFA’s chief financial officer. In 2011, FIFA banned the Qatari businessman for life from all football-related activities.
Bin Hammam was banned for life from all football-related activity in 2011
What bin Hammam received the funds for remains unclear. Swiss prosecutors estimated the payment came in exchange for a FIFA grant of 250 million Swiss francs to the World Cup organizing committee. Others suspected it was for a bribe that had been promised years earlier to get votes in the election to decide which country would host the 2006 World Cup. Germany won the elections, held in 2000, beating South Africa 12-11 in the third ballot. Still others suspected the money had been used as a secret payment to Beckenbauer for his work securing and organizing the World Cup.
Read more: The 2006 World Cup affair: a timeline
Why has the limitation period expired?
Under Swiss law, if no verdict is rendered by the court of first instance 15 years after the alleged commission of the offense, it expires by prescription. In this case, the date was April 27, 2020, 15 years after the questionable payment.
The 2006 World Cup case first came to light in October 2015, but it was not until August 2019 that Switzerland’s attorney general’s office filed a complaint against the former football executives. Another six months passed before the start of the trial in a court in the Swiss city of Bellinzona. It was March 9, 2020, just a month and a half before the statute of limitations expired. The trial was suspended on March 17 due to the coronavirus outbreak and it has never resumed.
However, in early April, Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said it would be wrong to attribute the expiration of the statute of limitations to COVID-19 alone.
The 2006 World Cup is often called the “summer fairy tale” in Germany
“Usually something would have gone wrong in the proceedings before that,” she said.
Other legal experts have spoken of “negligence” – or referred to meetings between Michael Lauber, the head of the Attorney General’s Office (OAG), and FIFA President Gianni Infantino. Last month, the AS-MPC, which oversees the OAG, imposed a temporary pay cut on Lauber for violating “several of his professional obligations” and “acting unfairly”. Lauber defended the meetings as being logistically necessary given the scale of the case.
Is this the last 2006 World Cup criminal investigation?
While the Swiss case is now closed, Zwanziger, Niersbach, Schmidt and Linsi will likely still face trial in Germany, this time over allegations of tax evasion.
This case also concerns the bank transfer of April 27, 2005, which was declared as an operating expense, which makes it tax deductible. It has been described as a “FIFA 2006 Shared Cost Gala”. The Frankfurt prosecution accused the four football officials of tax evasion to the tune of around € 13.7 million. If found guilty, they face up to five years in prison.
The higher regional court in Frankfurt, where the DFB sits, decided last August to let the case go ahead. With the Swiss trial over, it now seems likely that it will take place.
Unlike Beckenbauer (left), Linsi will likely still be on trial in Germany
Where does that leave Franz Beckenbauer?
He is the only one of the parties to this questionable 2005 payment that has nothing more to fear, at least from a legal point of view. Swiss prosecutors had considered Beckenbauer, chairman of the organizing committee for the 2006 World Cup, as the prime suspect.
However, due to the ill health of the former West German captain and coach of the German national team – he underwent several heart operations – the proceedings against him were separated from those against the other four. in July 2019. On Monday, the limitation period for the charges against him also expired.
Beckenbauer is also not among the defendants in the tax evasion trial in Germany. According to the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt, the records do not show that money was paid to the “footballer FB” for his services in obtaining the right to host the World Cup and organize the tournament.