Police raid German football HQ over 2006 World Cup payment

This follows claims of tax evasion linked to the awarding of the 2006 World Cup.

This file photo taken on September 3, 2013 shows the logo of the Fifa (International Federation of Association Football) outside the organisation's headquarters in Zurich. Picture: AFP.

FRANKFURT - Police raided the Frankfurt headquarters of Germany's football association (DFB) on Tuesday and searched the homes of officials to investigate claims of tax evasion linked to the awarding of the 2006 World Cup, prosecutors said.

The raids, which deployed more than 50 officials, focused on €6.7 million the DFB transferred to world soccer's governing body Fifa in 2005. Prosecutors said they suspected senior officials at the association of failing to register the payment properly in tax returns.

According to a mid-October report in magazine Der Spiegel, the money was used to buy votes for Germany's successful World Cup bid.

The DFB has strongly denied the claims it bought the 2006 tournament. Repeatedly contacted by Reuters, it declined to comment on Tuesday's raid.

DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach, his predecessor Theo Zwanziger and the association's former General Secretary Horst Schmidt are suspected of tax evasion over the payment, prosecutors said in a statement.

The report in Der Spiegel alleged that deceased Adidas CEO Robert Louis-Dreyfus loaned the money to the German bid committee to buy votes at the Fifa election, which took place in 2000. Germany won by a single vote from South Africa.

The DFB returned the same sum to Louis-Dreyfus via Fifa in 2005, the magazine said.

Adidas, a major sponsor of the DFB, declined to comment on the raids.

Niersbach told a news conference last month he did not know why the payment to Fifa, already being investigated in-house by both the DFB and the world soccer body - was made.

The Frankfurt prosecutor said Niersbach and his two DFB colleagues were suspected of tax evasion as the 2005 payment was registered in returns as an operational expense, meaning the trio avoided a number of different taxes that should have been paid on it.

The tax raid triggered reactions from politicians and members of the parliamentary committee on sport, which invited Niersbach to a hearing on Wednesday that he refused to attend.

"A classic case of an own goal," MP and committee member Oezcan Mutlu wrote on Twitter. This happens when there is no transparency and clarification."