World Cup 2006 corruption trial to quietly pass statute of limitations

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Swiss trial in 2006 World Cup case suspended, nears collapse

Alleged world cup fraudsters saved by the final whistle

Three former German football officials and ex-FIFA Secretary General Urs Linsi look set to escape any ruling on the Swiss trial over German 2006 World Cup corruption.

The former German football officials and ex-FIFA Secretary General Urs Linsi were put on trial last mouth in Switzerland over suspicions that Germany bought votes to obtain the 2006 World Cup.

The five-years-long investigation that lead to the trial was launched after German magazine Der Spiegel in 2015 revealed the scandal involving a 6.7 million euro (US$7.6 million) payment made to FIFA in 2005 by the German soccer federation.

Prosecutors claim that “the accused falsely claimed at a meeting with the supervisory board of the (2006 organising committee) that the payment to FIFA would be a contribution” toward the tournament’s opening ceremony.

They believe that it instead settled a loan the head of the Cup organizing committee Franz Beckenbauer previously accepted from a former Adidas executive and that the money eventually ended up in the pocket of ex-FIFA official Mohamed bin Hammam from Qatar.

Swiss prosecutors believe the 2005 payment settled a loan Beckenbauer accepted three years earlier from Robert Louis-Dreyfus, a former Adidas executive and then part-owner of the Infront marketing agency. Louis-Dreyfus died in 2009.

Franz Beckenbauer, who was in charge of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee, was removed from the main trial last year for health reasons. He and former FIFA President Sepp Blatter had been due to give evidence by video link as witnesses.

Swiss Linsi, 70, former German Football Association (DFB) presidents Wolfgang Niersbach, 69, and Theo Zwanziger, 74, and 78-year-old former DFB General Secretary Horst R. Schmidt are being prosecuted for “fraud”.

Swiss Linsi, 70, former German Football Association (DFB) presidents Wolfgang Niersbach, 69, and Theo Zwanziger, 74, and 78-year-old former DFB General Secretary Horst R. Schmidt

The trial in Bellinzona began on March 9, less than eight weeks before the clock would run out. Defendants and witnesses, most at least 70 years of age, were unwilling to travel to a place close to northern Italy, a region already ravaged by the novel coronavirus. The trial was subsequently suspended.

At the start of hearing in Bellinzona the defendants indicated that they would not be present for a variety of reasons, including fear of travelling because of coronavirus contagion.

The former top officials from Germany’s DFB and FIFA are on trial for tax evasion and receiving suspicious payments. But now the process looks set to end without a ruling as the statute of limitations runs out next week.

The trial over questionable payments related to the 2006 World Cup in Germany appears destined to conclude without a verdict as the Swiss Federal Criminal Court extended its suspension of the process until next Monday, the day the statute of limitations on the charges expires.

This means the case is likely to end without verdicts. On Tuesday, the Swiss judiciary opted to delay proceedings for another week because of the virus, meaning the next court appointment is on the day that the statute of limitations expires, April 27.

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