A 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.
Three former senior officials of Germany’s football federation, the DFB, plus one from world football’s governing body FIFA, have stood accused of fraud for year now. The case seemed likely to end without verdicts for some time, not least as the decision to pursue the case was finally reached with just eight months left to prosecute, but the coronavirus shutdown has now guaranteed this. 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.
Former DFB General Secretary Horst Schmidt, along with former DFB presidents Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach, as well as ex-FIFA General Secretary Urs Linsi, are standing trial over a fraudulent payment of €6.7 million ($7.5 million) that the DFB made to FIFA in 2005. It declared the sum as a contribution for a gala related to the 2006 World Cup and also therefore as tax-deductible. The ceremony in question never took place.
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.
German legend Franz Beckenbauer’s poor health let him off the legal hook even earlier than the other defendants
Prosecutors recognized when announcing the indictment in August 2019 the reason for the payment was unclear. It started as a 2002 loan to Beckenbauer from Robert Louis-Dreyfus, the now deceased entrepreneur and former CEO of sportswear firm Adidas.
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.
jsi/msh (dpa, AP)