The world’s soccer governing body FIFA confirmed for the first time Wednesday that it has been investigating German soccer legend Franz Beckenbauer. The probe is apparently already so far along that it has moved on to the next stage.
FIFA said in a statement that it had completed an initial investigation into Mr. Beckenbauer, the former Bayern Munich player, over wrongdoing linked to World Cup tournaments awarded to Russia and Qatar, and that it had passed on its findings to its ethics committee for a final verdict.
The 70-year-old German, who won the World Cup as both a player and coach, sat on FIFA’s executive committee when it voted on bids from Russia and Qatar, which were later chosen to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively.
Ángel María Villar Llona, who is president of the Spanish Football Association and has been vice president of the FIFA executive committee since 1998, is also under investigation, FIFA confirmed.
The cases of both men, who deny any wrongdoing, are related to non-cooperation with the committee’s investigations.
In June 2014, FIFA suspended Mr. Beckenbauer for 90 days after refusing to cooperate with the body’s then ethics investigator Michael Garcia’s probe into the World Cup votes. The organization lifted the ban after two weeks when the German agreed to answer Mr. Garcia’s questions, but the former soccer star has faced further scrutiny.
The verdict is now in the hands of the German ethics judge, Hans-Joachim Eckert.
The ethics committee wasted no time in taking advantage of its new freedom to disclose information about the investigations.
Separately, the ethics committee confirmed that “proceedings are ongoing” against FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, head of the European Football Association UEFA, over a payment of 2 million Swiss francs, or $2.07 million, from FIFA to Mr. Platini in February 2011. Both men have already been suspended for 90 days from soccer activities.
The ethics committee wasted no time in taking advantage of its new freedom, granted recently by FIFA, to disclose information about the investigations, in an effort to bring greater transparency to the scandal-rocketed body.
Mr. Beckenbauer, who headed the German organizing committee for the 2006 World Cup, is also linked to bribery allegations over the country’s successful bid.
The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported on Friday that an alleged slush fund to bribe FIFA officials to help Germany land the tournament had been set up with €6.7 million, or $7.6 million, from the late Adidas chief executive Robert Louis-Dreyfus.
The magazine claims that Mr. Beckenbauer and Wolfgang Niersbach, the president of the German Football Association, the DFB, who was a vice president of the organizing committee, both knew of the slush fund.
Mr. Beckenbauer has denied the claims. “I never gave money to anyone to acquire votes so that Germany (would be) awarded the 2006 World Cup,” he said in a statement. “And I am certain that no other member of the bid committee did something like that.”
Mr. Niersbach has also denied the allegations and ordered his lawyers to take legal action against the magazine.
The DFB said its own investigation revealed no wrongdoing in the process of being awarded the World Cup in 2006 but confirmed that it was investigating a payment of €6.7 million to the organizing committee to FIFA for a cultural program during the 2006 tournament.
It’s not clear whether Mr. Beckenbauer will face questioning by the ethics committee about the alleged slush fund to bribe FIFA executives to award Germany the 2006 World Cup.
FIFA has been embroiled in the biggest crisis of its 111-year-old history, when several soccer officials and sports marketing executives were indicted in May in the United States for bribery and money laundering involving more than $150 million in payments.
John Blau is senior editor at Handelsblatt Global Edition. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org