ZURICH (Reuters) - FIFA’s ethics watchdog has started formal proceedings against six individuals, including Franz Beckenbauer, over the awarding of hosting rights to Germany for the 2006 World Cup, world soccer’s governing body said on Tuesday.
The others involved are former German Football Association (DFB) chief Wolfgang Niersbach, who resigned over the affair last year, his predecessor Theo Zwanziger, Helmut Sandrock, Horst Schmidt and Stefan Hans.
“In the cases of Mr Beckenbauer, Dr Zwanziger, Mr Schmidt and Mr Hans, the investigatory chamber will investigate possible undue payments and contracts to gain an advantage in the 2006 FIFA World Cup host selection and the associated funding,” the investigatory chamber of Zurich-based FIFA’s ethics committee said in a statement.
Niersbach resigned from the DFB presidency after failing to provide explanations for a 6.7 million euro ($7.52 million) payment from organizers of the 2006 World Cup at which he was a Vice President to FIFA. He still sits on the FIFA Executive Committee.
A DFB-commissioned report revealed this month that while there was no evidence of Germany paying FIFA members in return for their votes, payments were made to at least one former FIFA official through a web of accounts involving several other firms or individuals, including Beckenbauer.
Beckenbauer, a World Cup-winning player and coach who headed the 2006 World Cup, admitted to making mistakes but denied any wrongdoing over the tournament in Germany. He said he knew nothing of a multi-million dollar payment to a disgraced former FIFA official in Qatar.
The report showed he transferred 10 million Swiss francs ($10.1 million) in 2002 via a Swiss law firm’s account to a company owned by then FIFA official Mohamed Bin Hammam, the former president of the Asian Football Confederation who was banned from all soccer-related activity in December 2012.
The World Cup affair, which has shocked soccer-mad Germany, was triggered by the payment from the DFB to FIFA in 2005 which the DFB said last year was the return of a loan via the ruling body from former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus.
Despite the recent report, no satisfactory answer has been provided for the transfers of cash between Louis-Dreyfus, Beckenbauer, the DFB, FIFA and Bin Hamman which were described in detail in the 300-plus page report for the DFB.
Reporting by Joshua Franklin and Karolos Grohmann,; Editing by Ed Osmond