2006 World Cup

Franz Beckenbauer
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Court ends 1st Swiss trial in FIFA probe without judgment

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GENEVA — The first trial in Switzerland’s five-year investigation of corruption in soccer ended Tuesday without a judgment, seemingly beaten by the coronavirus pandemic and an expiring statute of limitations.

The decision by the Swiss federal criminal court had become inevitable. The trial of four soccer officials related to the 2006 World Cup opened on March 9 but was then suspended because of limitations on the court during the coronavirus outbreak.

The suspension was extended last week, pushing the prosecution beyond an April 27 deadline to resolve the case.

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Criminal proceedings, including against German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, were announced more than 3½ years ago but ultimately came to court too late. The court said in a statement it was circumstances and “not procedural errors” which caused the case to be closed.

Two German members of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee, Theo Zwanziger and Horst Schmidt, plus former FIFA secretary general Urs Linsi, were charged with fraud.

A third German official, Wolfgang Niersbach, was charged with being complicit in fraud in an alleged collective attempt to mislead a 2006 World Cup oversight panel in Germany.

Beckenbauer was not indicted for health reasons but was listed as a witness by video link to the court near Switzerland’s border with virus-hit northern Italy.

The case involved a 6.7 million euro ($7.6 million) payment 15 years ago that passed from Beckenbauer via a FIFA account to Qatari soccer powerbroker Mohamed bin Hammam.

Prosecutors acknowledged when announcing the indictment last August the true purpose of the money was unclear.

2006 World Cup organizer rejects charges over payment

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DIEZ, Germany (AP) Former German soccer federation president Theo Zwanziger has again declared his innocence over a 6.7 million euros ($7.5 million) payment made before the 2006 World Cup.

Zwanziger held a press conference Tuesday to say he had filed a criminal complaint against Swiss prosecutors in response to the charges of fraud filed against him and three others last week.

Zwanziger accused prosecutors of deliberately misinterpreting the evidence.

Zwanziger, Horst R. Schmidt and Swiss ex-FIFA general secretary Urs Linsi face charges of jointly committing fraud. Wolfgang Niersbach – Zwanziger’s successor as German soccer federation president – is charged with being complicit in fraud.

Proceedings against Franz Beckenbauer, who headed Germany’s 2006 World Cup organizing committee, are being conducted separately due to health reasons.

The Swiss attorney general’s office says the payment was falsely declared in 2005 as being for a World Cup opening gala and was used instead to settle a personal debt over money that was channeled in 2002 to a Qatari company belonging to Mohammed Bin Hammam, then a member of FIFA’s Executive Committee.

Bin Hammam was banned from soccer for life in 2012.

Zwanziger also denied charges of tax evasion made against him, Schmidt and Niersbach by a prosecutor in Frankfurt.

Three German organizers of 2006 World Cup indicted for tax evasion

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Three German organizers of the 2006 World Cup have been charged with tax evasion linked to a payment to FIFA.

German news agency dpa reported that Theo Zwanziger, Wolfgang Niersbach and Horst R. Schmidt confirmed Wednesday they are indicted by Frankfurt prosecutors in a long-running investigation.

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They are accused of falsifying tax returns on behalf of the Germany soccer federation (DFB) in 2006. The DFB has already paid 19.2 million euros ($22.4 million) in back taxes. All three deny the charges, which were first reported by German daily Bild

The allegations are also being investigated by Swiss federal prosecutors and FIFA’s ethics committee. They have targeted German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, who led the 2006 tournament organizing committee.

Beckenbauer, Zwanziger and Niersbach were members of FIFA’s executive committee in turn from 2007 through 2016.

In 2016, the DFB published an inquiry report into a complex payments trail including 6.7 million euros ($7.8 million) to FIFA in April 2005. Zwanziger and the DFB claimed the money was for a World Cup opening gala and therefore tax-deductible.

However, the payment went through FIFA and ended in a Swiss account belonging to former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who died in 2009.

The inquiry report did not rule out, but could not prove, that votes were bought when Germany beat a Nelson Mandela-supported South Africa bid for the hosting rights in a 12-11 vote of FIFA executive committee members in 2000.

Swiss prosecutors said in 2016 they had opened a criminal proceeding against the four German officials the previous year, on suspicion of fraud, money laundering, criminal mismanagement and misappropriation. That case spun off from a wider Swiss investigation of suspected corruption linked to FIFA and World Cup hosting votes that is ongoing.

Niersbach lost his seat on FIFA’s ruling committee when he was banned for one year for failing to disclose possible unethical conduct.

The various investigations have tarnished the reputation of the 2006 World Cup that was a popular success in the host nation, which called it the “Summer Fairytale.”

FIFA ethics committee places German official under probe

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) FIFA ethics investigators have recommended a fine and social work for a former high-ranking German soccer federation official for failing to report possible corruption around the 2006 World Cup.

Helmut Sandrock resigned as general secretary of the German federation in February. His former boss, federation president Wolfgang Niersbach, was banned from soccer for one year in July in the first sanction from the investigation into Germany’s World Cup bid. Niersbach stepped down from the job in November but remains a member of FIFA’s ruling council. He is appealing the suspension.

FIFA’s ethics committee found Niersbach guilty of failing to report findings of possible unethical conduct and conflicts of interest during the bidding process.

Sandrock is accused of similar misconduct and the ethics committee investigators recommended a fine of 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,000), plus social work.

Ten years later, Materazzi reveals comments to Zidane at World Cup

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The match was level at 1-1, and nothing appeared to be the deciding factor between two teams. That is until Zinedine Zidane created arguably the biggest controversy in World Cup final history.

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Ten years have since rolled on, but now, Marco Materazzi — the Italian defender that was on the receiving end of the infamous head butt at the 2006 World Cup final in Germany — has clarified the comments he made leading up to the physical altercation; kind of.

As you can see in the video above and what was also seen in live action during the match, the two players appeared to exchange words in the second extra time session.

While various reports over the years have attempted to decipher what was said, Materazzi admitted to speaking about Zidane’s sister, despite not providing the context.

“What I said was stupid,” Materazzi said. “But it didn’t deserve that reaction. You would hear stronger words said on the streets of Naples, or Milan, or Paris, much more serious things.

“My mother died when I was 15, so I would never have insulted his. I spoke about his sister.”

Ultimately, France went on to lose in the penalty shootout following Zidane’s straight red card in the 110th minute. That sequence turned out to be the final moment of the Frenchman’s professional playing career.