Police raid offices of top German football officials

Investigators of the tax office move boxes of files in the garage of the German Football Federation (DFB).
Investigators of the tax office move boxes of files in the garage of the German Football Federation (DFB).PHOTO: AFP

FRANKFURT • Police yesterday raided the offices of the German Football Federation (DFB) and the homes of its top officials over tax- evasion allegations, as the scandal surrounding graft claims over the awarding of the 2006 World Cup to Germany deepened.

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 spokesman for the prosecutors.

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 in news magazine Der Spiegel last month that a €6.7 million (S$10.4 million) payment to Fifa was used to buy votes to secure the hosting of the 2006 World Cup.

"The defendants are accused of submitting inaccurate tax returns in their previous responsibilities, and thereby shortchanging... taxes due for 2006 by a significant amount," said Nadja Niesen, senior state prosecutor.

The latter noted that the murky payment had been booked by the organising committee as part of its contribution to a Fifa cultural programme when it was "actually used for other purposes".

"The payment could therefore not be used as a deductible expense as reported," she said.

Direct graft claims relating to the case could, however, not be pursued due to the statute of limitations, added Niesen.

However, the cash-for-votes allegations have sparked a bout of in-fighting 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 in funding from world football's governing body.

But Zwanziger has accused Niersbach of hiding the truth, 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 Der Spiegel, Zwanziger claimed he was told by Schmidt, then the World Cup organising committee's vice-president, that disgraced former Fifa vice-president Mohamed Hammam was the recipient.

Hammam was last year banned for life by Fifa, after being found to have bought votes in an election against Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

Beckenbauer has admitted making a "mistake" in the bidding process to host the 2006 World Cup - won by Italy - but has denied that the votes were bought.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2015, with the headline 'Police raid offices of top German football officials'. Print Edition | Subscribe