soccer Scandal

Tax Officials Raid German Football Association

Zwangier Niersbach DFB Reuters
Nervous times: DFB president, Wolfgang Niersbach, and former president Theo Zwanziger.

German tax authorities mounted a raid early Tuesday morning on the Frankfurt headquarters of the German Football Association, the DFB. Officials and police also targeted the homes of several officials suspected of tax evasion linked to an alleged payment to FIFA, the world’s governing soccer body, to secure the hosting rights of the 2006 World Cup.

Around 50 tax officials searched the private residences of Wolfgang Niersbach, the current DFB president and a former member of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee; Theo Zwanziger, his predecessor at DFB; and Horst Schmidt, a former association treasurer, according to the Frankfurt Prosecutors’ Office.

The officials seized computers, media storage devices and documents, the newspaper Bild reported.

In a statement, prosecutors said they had “opened investigations on suspicion of serious tax evasion” linked to the awarding of the 2006 tournament and the organizing committee’s transfer of €6.7 million ($7.5 million) to FIFA.

The police have searched the private residences of Wolfgang Niersbach, Theo Zwanziger and Horst Schmidt.

story published last month in the news magazine Der Spiegel alleged that €6.7 million – loaned by then-Adidas boss Robert Louis-Dreyfus to the World Cup bid committee headed by soccer legend Franz Beckenbauer – was used in a cash-for-votes deal to buy the 2006 tournament. Germany won the right to host it by a one-vote margin over South Africa in 2000.

Der Spiegel also claimed Mr. Niersbach, who took over as DFB president in 2012, and Mr. Beckenbauer were aware of the money loaned by Mr. Louis-Dreyfus.

Mr. Niersbach has claimed that the payment in question was agreed at a private meeting in January 2002, long after Germany was awarded the World Cup. At a press conference last month, he said there were “no slush funds, no votes were bought.”

Mr. Beckenbauer broke his silence on the issue last week when he also claimed that no votes were bought.

“In order to receive a financial subsidy from FIFA, it was agree to accept a recommendation from FIFA’s finance committee, which from today’s perspective, should have been rejected,” Mr. Beckenbauer said in a carefully construed statement. “As president of the organizing committee, I take responsibility for this error.”

In a televised interview with Der Spiegel, Mr. Zwaziger said: “It’s clear there was a slush fund in Germany’s World Cup application and it’s equally clear that today’s DFB president hasn’t just known about it for a few weeks, as he claims, but since 2005 at least. As I see it, Niersbach is lying.”


John Blau is a senior editor with Handelsblatt Global Edition. To contact the author:

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