- Property searches took place Thursday as suspects questioned
- Former German national team star already focus of a FIFA probe
Swiss prosecutors are stepping up an investigation into four German soccer officials, including former national team star Franz Beckenbauer, over allegations of fraud, money laundering and misappropriation of funds in the run-up to the 2006 World Cup.
Searches in eight locations were undertaken Thursday with the help of Austrian and German authorities, and “various” suspects were questioned, the Swiss Attorney-General’s office said in a statement. Beckenbauer, Horst Schmidt, Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach, executive board members of Germany’s 2006 World Cup organizing committee, are suspected of knowing that nearly 7 million euros ($7.8 million) intended for a gala event was actually used for another purpose, according to the statement.
“In particular, it is suspected that the suspects willfully misled their fellow members of the executive board of the organizing committee," the statement reads.
Swiss and U.S. federal prosecutors are already leading probes into corruption at FIFA, the sport’s governing body, and the selection of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar. Beckenbauer, nicknamed ‘Der Kaiser’ and captain of the West German 1974 World Cup-winning team, is among 11 officials that FIFA named last year as the focus of its own investigation into the awarding of those tournaments.
The Swiss probe into the German soccer officials, which opened in November 2015, is justified because some of the money was misappropriated in Switzerland, the Attorney-General’s office said.
Neither Beckenbauer’s German lawyers Werner Leitner and Michael Nesselhauf nor his spokesman Marcus Hoefl immediately replied to e-mails seeking comment. Renate Verjans, Nierbach’s German lawyer, declined to comment. Zwanziger’s lawyer didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment.