Former FIFA officials face fraud charges over suspicious payments to Qatar

  • notty

Swiss federal prosecutors have filed fraud charges against three former senior German soccer officials and one Swiss over suspicious payments to a company owned by a Qatari national, linked to the 2006 World Cup hosted by Germany, according to the Swiss Attorney General's office.

The indictment alleges 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 6.7 million euros ($7.5 million), 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 made it impossible to question him, the Attorney General's Office said.

The criminal investigation into Beckenbauer, who is a World Cup-winning player and former coach for Germany, was opened in 2015 over his role as head of 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 last month its investigation of money-laundering allegations in the case.

"The investigations have revealed that in summer 2002 Franz Beckenbauer accepted a loan of 10 million Swiss francs 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," the OAG said.

At the time, Bin Hammam was a member of the FIFA Executive Committee and the FIFA Finance Committee.

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.

Qatar's participation in the culture of graft at FIFA is now widely known and has led to multiple investigations into bribery and corruption over its winning bid to host the 2022 World Cup. French authorities are also investigating FIFA's granting of hosting duties to Qatar amid suspicions Doha paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to FIFA officials.

Leaked documents revealed that Doha paid a total of $880 million to FIFA in its bid to host the tournament.

As part of that overall payment, Qatar secretly offered FIFA a payment of $400 million a mere 21 days before it controversially decided that the 2022 World Cup would go to Doha.

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