German police have raided the headquarters of DFB, the country's football federation, and the homes of three current and former high-ranking officials in connection with possible wrongdoing in Germany's hosting of the 2006 World Cup.
Senior state prosecutor Nadja Niesen said the raids Tuesday were carried out "over suspicions of tax evasion in a particularly serious case" and were related to a payment to FIFA, football's governing body.
The raids were linked to "the awarding of the football World Cup 2006 and a transfer of 6.7 million euros [$7.4 million] made by the organizing committee to FIFA,’’ Niesen said.
About 50 officers took part in the raids on the federation's Frankfurt offices and the homes of President Wolfgang Niersback; his predecessor, Theo Zwanziger; and former General Secretary Horst Schmidt.
A story in Der Spiegel magazine last month alleged the federation used a $7.4 million payment to FIFA to buy enough votes to secure its bid to host the 2006 World Cup. Prosecutors said the federation improperly declared the payment on its tax returns so that it could avoid paying higher taxes.
Germany won FIFA's 2000 selection vote for the 2006 World Cup, beating out South Africa by one vote.
Hours after Frankfurt police swooped in on DFB headquarters, Zwanziger said he was “happy it came this way," adding that he had “nothing to fear."
"[I want] for the truth to finally come out and not by an investigation carried out by the DFB," he said. "I am happy it came this way. I have no worries. Do you know how many prosecutions I have already seen? I am totally relaxed. I know I'm telling the truth, so I have nothing to fear. What else might come out of it, we will see. But it's better this way than through some kind of investigation committees by people who are involved.”
FILE - FIFA President Sepp Blatter addresses a news conference at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.
Zwanziger has accused the federation of creating a slush fund in its vote-buying scheme. Niersback said the money was used to secure a large grant from FIFA. The federation has launched an internal investigation into the payment.
FIFA has been embroiled in scandal after 14 officials were arrested in Zurich in May and charged in the United States with nearly 50 counts of corruption, including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. Swiss officials have also opened a separate criminal investigation involving FIFA's selection of Russia and Qatar to host the World Cup tournaments in 2018 and 2022, respectively.
FIFA's ethics committee suspended embattled President Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, the head of the Union of European Football Association and Blatter's potential successor, for 90 days last month, after Swiss prosecutors opened a criminal investigation against Blatter involving a $2 million payment to Platini in 2011.