Swiss prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into German football legend Franz Beckenbauer and three others over Germany’s bid for the 2006 World Cup.
As members of that cup’s organising committee, they are suspected of fraud, criminal mismanagement, money laundering and misappropriation.
Some of the alleged crimes were carried out on Swiss territory.
Mr Beckenbauer, who headed the bid, has previously denied corruption.
Last October, he said he had made a “mistake” in the bidding process to host the competition in 2000 but denied votes had been bought.
In March, football’s world governing body FIFA began looking into six men for their part in Germany winning the rights to host the 2006 cup.
‘Repayment of a debt’
After launching their own investigations, linked to those of FIFA, Swiss prosecutors named four suspects on Thursday:
- Franz Beckenbauer: Former vice-president of the German Football Association (DFB), president of the 2006 World Cup local organising committee (LOC) and former member of the Fifa executive committee
- Wolfgang Niersbach: Former president of the DFB, vice-president of the LOC and current member of the Fifa and Uefa executive committees
- Theo Zwanziger: Former president of the DFB, vice-president of the LOC and former member of the Fifa and Uefa executive committees
- Horst Rudolf Schmidt: Former secretary-general of the DFB and vice-president of the LOC
Premises were searched in eight undisclosed locations on Thursday with the co-operation of the Austrian and German authorities, the prosecutors said.
Several suspects were also questioned, they added.
Germany beat South Africa 12-11 in the World Cup vote, which took place in July 2000.
The Swiss investigation centres on the use of 7m euros (£6m; $7.8m), later reduced to 6.7m euros, earmarked for a gala event.
“It is suspected that the suspects knew that this sum was not being used to fund the gala event, but instead to repay a debt that was not owed by the DFB,” prosecutors said in a statement.
“In particular, it is suspected that the suspects wilfully misled their fellow members of the executive board of the organising committee for the 2006 World Cup.
“This was presumably done by the use of false pretences or concealment of the truth, thus inducing the other committee members to act in a manner that caused DFB a financial loss.”
No further details were given.
Reporting earlier on Thursday, Germany’s Spiegel magazine said the investigation centred on payments made from 2002-2005.
Last October, Mr Beckenbauer said he did not give “money to anyone in order to buy votes”.
But in a statement, he said: “In order to get a subsidy from FIFA [for the organisation of the 2006 World Cup] those involved went ahead with a proposal from the FIFA finance commission that in today’s eyes should have been rejected.
“I, as president of the then-organising committee, bear the responsibility of this mistake.”
He captained West Germany to victory as hosts at the 1974 World Cup and was coach when they next lifted the trophy, in Italy 16 years later.
The former defender went on to manage French side Marseille and German giants Bayern Munich, where he is now honorary president.