Beckenbauer breaks silence to deny World Cup “bribe”

German football great Franz Beckenbauer has again rejected allegations of bribes paid in connection with the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Breaking a long silence on the affair, Beckenbauer wrote in Germany’s Bild newspaper: “The award of the World Cup to Germany was not bought to the best of my knowledge. We did not want to bribe anyone and we did not bribe anyone.”

Beckenbauer, 71, then head of the German World Cup organising committee, is a central figure in investigations into unclear payments in connection with the World Cup.

Saying it would be his last column for Bild, Beckenbauer said he could not comment in detail about the affair “before the German and Swiss authorities, with whom I am cooperating of course, have finished their investigations.”

Swiss prosecutors said at the beginning of September they had opened criminal proceedings on November 6 last year against Beckenbauer and former senior German football federation (DFB) officials Wolfgang Niersbach, Theo Zwanziger and Horst R Schmidt.

The proceedings relate to allegations of fraud, criminal mismanagement, money laundering and misappropriation.

Investigations have focused on a payment to football world governing body FIFA of 6.7 million euros (around 7 million dollars) for a World Cup gala event which never took place.

German prosecuting authorities in November 2015 separately opened an investigation on “suspicion of tax evasion in a particularly severe case” into senior DFB officials in connection with the payment.

However, Beckenbauer was not a subject of the investigation, a prosecution spokeswoman said at the time.

Beckenbauer underwent heart bypass surgery at the beginning of September.

“Today, thanks to the skill of the doctors, I am doing well, I would even say really, really good,” he said.

“I’ve got my rehab behind me, I’ve changed my life a little and am doing a lot of sport again.”

He said he was ending his work for Bild after 34 years because he wanted to spend more time with his family. He lives in Salzburg with his third wife, Heidi and his two children.

Former DFB president Niersbach has meanwhile again expressed disappointed at his one-year ban from football imposed by FIFA’s ethics committee.

He told Sport Bild published Wednesday a ban of that length would usually be imposed for a more serious misdemeanour than the offences for which he was sanctioned.

Niersbach was ruled to have “failed to report findings about possible misconduct concerning the awarding of the 2006 World Cup” and a conflict of interest.

“In my case it is about late information to FIFA’s ethics committee and a conflict of interest, and I also have not enriched myself,” Niersbach was quoted by Sport Bild as saying.

FIFA’s appeals committee on Friday dismissed an appeal by Niersbach against the one-year ban.

Niersbach, 66, confirmed he would not appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and that he would hand back his FIFA council mandate. His term as UEFA executive committee member meanwhile ends in spring 2017 before the expiration of the ban. GNA

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