FRANKFURT, November 3 – Police raided the offices of the German Football Federation (DFB) and the homes of top officials Tuesday over tax evasion allegations linked to Germany’s hosting of the 2006 World Cup.
Prosecutors said they were launching a tax probe but could not pursue accusations of direct corruption because the statute of limitations had expired.
About 50 officers swooped on “the DFB headquarters as well as at homes of three accused — the DFB president, former DFB president and former general secretary,” said a prosecution spokeswoman, without giving names.
The three are understood to be current DFB chief Wolfgang Niersbach, his predecessor Theo Zwanziger and ex-general secretary Horst Schmidt.
The raids came after the DFB was roiled by allegations last month in news magazine Der Spiegel that a 6.7-million-euro ($7.4-million) payment to FIFA was used to buy votes to secure the hosting of the 2006 World Cup.
At the vote in July 2000, Germany saw off South Africa by 12 votes to 11 — Charles Dempsey of New Zealand abstained — to win the right to stage the tournament finals.
Nadja Niesen, senior state prosecutor, said Tuesday’s raids were carried out “over suspicions of tax evasion in a particularly serious case”, and related to the 6.7-million-euro payment.
The prosecutor noted that when the DFB organising committee had filed the 6.7-million-euro payment to the tax authorities, it was booked as part of its contribution to a FIFA cultural programme.
However, it was “actually used for other purposes,” said Niesen.
The result was that the defendants are being investigated over “submitting inaccurate tax returns in their previous responsibilities” and therefore “shortchanging… taxes due for 2006 by a significant amount,” she said.
“The payment could therefore not be used as a deductible expense as reported,” she said.
The DFB said it “fully supports” the investigation, adding that prosecutors had told the federation the probe was limited to tax evasion allegations.
“The DFB itself is not an accused party in the proceedings,” it added in a statement.
– DFB infighting –
The cash-for-votes allegations have sparked a bout of infighting among senior football officials in Germany.
Niersbach has categorically denied the allegations, saying “there was no slush fund, there was no vote buying”.
He claimed instead that the sum was used to secure 170 million euros of funding from world football’s governing body.
But Zwanziger has accused Niersbach of lying, saying it was “clear that there was a slush fund in the German World Cup bidding process”.
Zwanziger was then DFB chief and also Franz Beckenbauer’s deputy of the 2006 World Cup’s organising committee.
In an interview with Spiegel, Zwanziger claimed he was told by Schmidt — then World Cup organising committee’s vice president — that the disgraced former FIFA vice president Mohamed Bin Hammam was the recipient.
Hammam was in 2014 banned for life by FIFA for a second time from football activities, after he was found to have bought votes in an election against Blatter.
Beckenbauer meanwhile, has admitted making a “mistake” in the bidding process to host the 2006 World Cup but has denied votes were bought.
In a statement that appeared to back Niersbach’s account for the 6.7 million euros, Beckenbauer said: “In order to obtain a FIFA grant, we accepted a proposition coming from FIFA’s finance commission that the implicated parties should, in retrospect, have refused.”
“As president of the organising committee at that time, I take responsibility for this mistake,” he said.
FIFA has denied that any deal was made with the DFB over the questionable fund, and has launched its own probe into the awarding of the 2006 World Cup.