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DFB offices and Niersbach, Zwanziger homes raided over alleged tax fraud

German Football Association (DFB) headquarters as well as the private properties of DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach and 2006 World Cup organising committee member Theo Zwanziger were raided Tuesday morning over payments made to FIFA in connection with the 2006 World Cup.

Frankfurt prosecutor Nadja Niesen told The Associated Press that the raids were ongoing.

She said the prosecutors' office was investigating "tax evasion in a particularly serious case.'' 

"The raids are linked to the awarding of the football World Cup 2006 and the transfer of €6.7 million to FIFA," Niesen told The Associated Press

According to Bild, dozens of tax investigators and members of the Frankfurt prosecution service seized files, computers and hard disks, and one investigator told the paper: "We are looking for incriminating evidence to back the suspicion of tax fraud."

Spiegel Online also reported that -- following a Frankfurt district court order -- the investigations of the prosecution are directed against Niersbach and Zwanziger.

Niesen did not release the names of people whose homes were being searched. But because the statement gave their functions, it was clear that the raids targeted Niersbach, his predecessor, Zwanziger, and former general secretary Horst R. Schmidt.

A statement read: "Frankfurt prosecution has opened investigations for suspected tax evasion in a particularly serious case related to the awarding of the 2006 World Cup and the €6.7m transfer from the DFB to FIFA. They are directed against the DFB president and former vice president of the organising committee [Niersbach], the acting DFB president in 2006 and former treasurer of the organising committee [Zwanziger], as well as the former DFB general secretary [Schmidt].

"The defendants have been accused of filing incorrect tax returns as to content within the scope of their then-responsibilites, and thereby considerably shortening corporate and trade tax as well as the solidarity tax for the year 2006. According to present knowledge the organising committee is believed to have claimed tax-reducing effects for operating costs for a €6.7m payment for a cultural programme in the spring of 2005, even though it was underlying a different purpose, and the payment therefore should have not been claimed as deductible operating costs.

"At the request of the prosecution the investigating judge at Frankfurt district court has ordered the search warrants for the DFB premises as well the tenements of the defendants.

"They today have been enforced by 50 officers of Frankfurt's tax investigation as well as the prosecution for economic offences. Regarding other offences coming into deliberation like embezzlement as well as corruption in international business affairs there has been no reasonable suspicions because of statute of limitations, and thus it has been abstained from starting investigations."

A later statement from the DFB read: "DFB supports to its full extent the investigations of Frankfurt prosecution for suspected tax evasion in a particularly serious case related to the awarding of the 2006 World Cup and the €6.7m transfer from the DFB to FIFA.

"The DFB agreed to fully cooperate with the clearance of the allegations. Prosecution informed the DFB that the search is limited to the suspicion of a tax-related offence. The DFB itself is not a defendant."

Prosecutors in Frankfurt had been weighing whether to press charges against members of the 2006 World Cup organising committee following slush-fund allegations first published by German news weekly Der Spiegel in mid-October.

They reported last month that the German World Cup bid committee had set up a €6.7 million slush fund to secure the votes of the four Asian members of the FIFA Executive Committee for the right to host the 2006 tournament.

Niersbach has denied the claims and insisted that the €6.7m, which allegedly was paid to FIFA in 2002 by the late former adidas CEO Robert Louis-Dreyfus, was used to release a grant of €170m for the organisation of the tournament.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


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