Prosecutors question Beckenbauer in World Cup fraud case

Prosecutors question Beckenbauer in World Cup fraud case

BERN, Switzerland — Germany soccer great Franz Beckenbauer has been questioned in a Swiss federal investigation of suspected corruption linked to the 2006 World Cup.

Criminal proceedings against Beckenbauer and three other German members of the 2006 tournament organizing committee were opened in 2015. The four are suspected of fraud, money laundering, criminal mismanagement, and misappropriation relating to a payment of 6.7 million euros ($7 million) to FIFA in 2005.

The Swiss attorney general’s office said in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday that federal prosecutors questioned Beckenbauer earlier in the day in Bern.

“Beckenbauer was co-operative,” the federal prosecution office said.

The Austrian home of Beckenbauer, who has denied wrongdoing, was raided last year for evidence in a case that threatens his reputation.

The former Bayern Munich and New York Cosmos star captained and coached West Germany to World Cup titles, then organized the 2006 edition. In Germany, the tournament became known as its “Summer Fairytale.”

Swiss prosecutors and German tax authorities are investigating a complex trail about payments that link Beckenbauer, then-FIFA president Sepp Blatter, one-time FIFA power broker Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar, and Robert Louis-Dreyfus, the late former Adidas executive and former part owner of Swiss marketing agency Infront.

An inquiry commissioned by the German soccer federation reported last year that the federation paid 6.7 million euros ($7 million) to FIFA in April 2005. It was “falsely declared” by the World Cup organizing committee for an opening gala, but was intended for Louis-Dreyfus. That same day, FIFA transferred the money to a Swiss account set up by Louis-Dreyfus.

Swiss prosecutors are investigating the 2006 World Cup allegations in a wider probe of FIFA’s business. Blatter is under criminal investigation for suspected financial mismanagement.

Swiss authorities are also working with the U.S. Department of Justice in its extensive investigation of corruption in world soccer.

Beckenbauer is also under investigation by the FIFA ethics committee in a bribery case announced one year ago.

The Associated Press