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German Court to try former DFB bosses over 2006 World Cup payment

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BERLIN (Reuters) – Two former German FA (DFB) bosses and two other people will stand trial for charges of tax evasion in relation to a 6.7 million euro (6.12 million pounds) payment linked to the 2006 World Cup, Frankfurt’s Higher Regional Court said on Monday.

The ruling came 10 months after a lower Frankfurt Court had said that former DFB presidents Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach as well as former senior DFB official Horst Schmidt and former FIFA official Urs Linsi would not stand trial due to a lack of evidence.

All four have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

They must now, however, stand trial for suspected tax evasion in relation to the payment in question.

“There is sufficient suspicion for the actions they are charged,” the Court said in a statement. “After analysis of the file there is enough suspicion that… the payment of 6.7 million euros in April 2005 from the organising committee World Cup 2006 to FIFA was wrong.”

The court said tax evasion carried prison sentences of up to five years or a fine.

The payment in question, which was initially recorded as an expense for a FIFA gala during the tournament, triggered several investigations.

It led to Niersbach’s resignation in 2015 over allegations made by Der Spiegel magazine that the payment was used as a slush fund to buy votes in favour of Germany’s bid to host the 2006 tournament.

Zwanziger headed the DFB from 2006 to 2012 and was succeeded by Niersbach until his resignation in the fallout from the scandal four years ago.

The four were also indicted in Switzerland for fraud earlier this month.

“Neither the fact nor the content of the ruling change anything from the legal concept that allegations against our client are unfounded,” Zwanziger’s legal team said in a statement.

A DFB-commissioned investigation in 2016 said the sum was the return of a loan via FIFA from former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus.

The tax office two years ago ordered the DFB to pay 19.2 million euros in back taxes related to the payment.

($1 = 0.8973 euros)

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)

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