Swiss prosecuting authorities have opened an investigation into German football great Franz Beckenbauer in connection with payments made around the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
A spokesperson for Switzerland’s federal prosecutor confirmed “an ongoing operation in this context” following a report by Germany’s Spiegel magazine that said Beckenbauer was being investigated on suspicion of embezzlement and money laundering.
A statement with further information is expected later Thursday.
Beckenbauer, a former World Cup-winning player and coach, was head of Germany’s 2006 World Cup organizing committee.
He has been the focus of an affair around payments including some 6.7 million euros (7.3 million dollars) made to football governing body FIFA connected to the 2006 World Cup.
The affair led to the resignation last year of German football federation DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach.
Law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, hired by the DFB to investigate the affair, reported in March it found no evidence of vote-buying around the awarding of the 2006 World Cup, but new unclear payments – including from an account held by Beckenbauer – had emerged.
There was no immediate reaction from Beckenbauer or his management to the Swiss investigation.
Following the Freshfields report, Beckenbauer, 70, denied any wrongdoing. He told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper he had only discovered as a result of the law firm’s investigation that money from an account he held with his former manager went to a firm in Qatar owned by the banned former FIFA executive Mohammed Bin Hammam.
Beckenbauer has said he understood the money – a total of 10 million Swiss francs – was to be a pre-payment to FIFA to secure a grant of 250 million Swiss francs for the World Cup.
He said he had no doubts about the integrity at the time of Bin Hammam, who was deputy chairman of the FIFA finance committee and “the superstar of FIFA.” Bin Hammamm has since been banned from football for life.
“In retrospect I perhaps made mistakes. One is always wiser after the event. But the World Cup was not bought,” he said.
In the wake of the World Cup payments affair, Beckenbauer has also had to answer questions about a document promising “various services” to disgraced former FIFA executive Jack Warner.
The document was signed by Beckenbauer four days before the World Cup vote in 2000 but the services were never rendered. Beckenbauer said the promised services were “to pacify Jack Warner” as “then one of the most powerful men in FIFA.”
In November, German prosecuting authorities in Frankfurt opened an investigation into former DFB president Niersbach and two senior former federation officials into payments linked to the 2006 World Cup.
The investigations were on “suspicion of tax evasion in a particularly severe case,” a statement said. However Beckenbauer was not a subject of the investigation, a prosecution spokeswoman said at the time.
In July, FIFA’s ethics committee banned council member Niersbach for one year from football-related activities in connection with the awarding of the 2006 World Cup to Germany.
FIFA said its “adjudicatory chamber found Niersbach failed to report findings about possible misconduct concerning the awarding of the 2006 World Cup, including potential breaches of the FIFA Code of Ethics (FCE).”
In March the ethics committee opened an investigation into the awarding of the 2006 tournament, probing six officials including Beckenbauer, Niersbach and another former DFB president, Theo Zwanziger.