German President Horst Koehler hands the World Cup trophy to Italy’s captain Fabio Cannavaro, after Italy defeated France 5-3 in a penalty shootout.(Keyston)

The German justice system opened the way for a trial on Monday against four former football officials, including a Swiss, in connection with an investigation into suspicions of corruption during the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The German organizing committee is suspected of having used a slush fund at the time to buy votes in order to ensure the award of the prestigious World Cup tournament. The Swiss judicial system, where football’s governing body FIFA is basedexternal link, has been responsible for investigating suspicions of corruption for several years. The German courts are also examining the tax aspects of the same case. On Monday a Frankfurt court validated the indictment of four former football officials, three Germans and one Swiss, which had been requested by the prosecutor in connection with the tax evasion dimension of the case. The prosecutor believes that there is “sufficient suspicion” to consider a conviction for tax fraud, according to a statement. The Swiss official to go on trial in Germany is former FIFA Secretary General Urs Linsi. The three Germans are two former presidents of the German Football Association, Wolfgang Niersbach and Theo Zwanziger, as well as former general secretary, Horst Schmidt.  The quartet must also prepare for a trial on charges of “fraud”, this time in Switzerland, where the prosecutor’s office completed its investigation in early July. German football legend Franz Beckenbauer, who at the time chaired the 2006 World Cup Organising Committee, could also be added to this list. His case was immediately separated due to his deteriorating health. The question of possible corruption around the 2006 World Cup has been at the heart of this case since 2015, when the investigative weekly magazine Der Spiegel external linkreported that Germany had used a secret fund of CHF10 million (€6.7 million at the time) to buy votes, particularly from Qatar, and to secure the organisation of this competition at the expense of South Africa. Beckenbauer is suspected of having asked Adidas’ former boss, the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, to contribute to this fund shortly before the summer of 2000 when the World Cup was awarded. He was allegedly reimbursed by the German Football Association on the pretext of expenses related to a FIFA gala evening, which in reality never took place. The tax conditions of this €6.7 million payment from the German Federation to FIFA will be the subject of the upcoming trial for fraud. The suspects have collectively denied the charges. Tax evasion carries prison sentences of up to five years or a fine in Germany.  

SDA-Keystone/ds

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