FRANKFURT: Police raided offices of the German Football Federation (DFB) and homes of top officials on Tuesday over tax evasion allegations, as the scandal surrounding graft claims over Germany’s awarding of the 2006 World Cup widened.
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 spokeswoman for prosecutors, without naming 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 in news magazine Der Spiegel last month 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 defendants are accused of submitting inaccurate tax returns in their previous responsibilities, and thereby shortchanging taxes due for 2006 by a signficant amount,” she said.
The prosecutor 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.
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 a 170 million euro 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 the 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 being 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 that 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.