Police have raided the headquarters of the German Football Association (DFB), and the private properties of DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach and his predecessor, Theo Zwanziger, in a probe linked to 2006 World Cup payments.
“The raids are linked to the awarding of the football World Cup 2006 and the transfer of €6.7 million to FIFA,” Frankfurt prosecutor Nadja Niesen told The Associated Press.
According to Bild, investigators seized files, computers and hard disks and one official said: “We are looking for incriminating evidence to back the suspicion of tax fraud.”
Spiegel Online also reported that the investigations are focused on Niersbach and Zwanziger.
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A statement read: “Frankfurt prosecution has opened investigations for suspected tax evasion in a particularly serious case related to the awarding of the 2006 World Cup and the €6.7m transfer from the DFB to FIFA. They are directed against the DFB president and former vice president of the organising committee [Wolfgang Niersbach], the acting DFB president in 2006 and former treasurer of the organising committee [Theo Zwanziger], as well as the former DFB general secretary [Horst R. Schmidt].
“The defendants have been accused of filing incorrect tax returns as to content within the scope of their then-responsibilites, and thereby considerably shortening corporate and trade tax as well as the solidarity tax for the year 2006. According to present knowledge the organising committee is believed to have claimed tax-reducing effects for operating costs for a €6.7m payment for a cultural programme in the spring of 2005, even though it was underlying a different purpose, and the payment therefore should have not been claimed as deductible operating costs.
“At the request of the prosecution the investigating judge at Frankfurt district court has ordered the search warrants for the DFB premises as well the tenements of the defendants.
“They today have been enforced by 50 officers of Frankfurt’s tax investigation as well as the prosecution for economic offences. Regarding other offences coming into deliberation like embezzlement as well as corruption in international business affairs there has been no reasonable suspicions because of statute of limitations, and thus it has been abstained from starting investigations.”
Prosecutors in Frankfurt had been examining the 2006 World Cup payments following allegations of the existence of a slush fund, published by Der Spiegel in mid-October.
They reported last month that the German World Cup bid committee had set up a €6.7 million fund to secure the votes of the four Asian members of the FIFA Executive Committee for the right to host the 2006 tournament.
Niersbach has denied the claims and insisted that the payment was required to release a grant of €170m for the organisation of the tournament. However, he was at a loss to explain where the money will ultimately have ended up.