ZURICH, May 20, (AFP): FIFA’s ethics committee on Friday recommended a two-year ban from all football activities for Wolfgang Niersbach, former president of the German Football Association (DFB), over an alleged corruption scandal around the right to host the 2006 World Cup.
FIFA’s adjudicatory chamber said they had received a final report from world football governing body’s ethics committee investigatory chamber and decided to proceed with formal proceedings against Niersbach.
“The investigatory chamber recommends a sanction of a two-year ban from all football-related activity and a fine of CHF 30,000 (27,000 euro, $30,000),” the judging body said.
Niersbach, vice-president of the 2006 World Cup organising committee, is still a member of the FIFA Council, and attended last week’s Congress in Mexico, as well as being on UEFA’s executive committee. He said he would vigorously contest the sanction.
“It’s a matter of honour and defence of my rights to oppose this request with all possible legal means,” Niersbach said in an interview with German news agency SID, a subsidiary of AFP.
“The penalty is incomprehensible. Especially when compared to other cases where the Ethics Commission has not made such harsh judgements in cases of personal advantage and corruption.”
“In my case, the charge is based solely on the fact that I did not speak soon enough about things related to the 2006 World Cup,” Niersbach continued, adding his “resignation from the presidency of the DFB in November 2015” should suffice.
Niersbach, 65, had resigned from the German federation amid accusations the DFB used a slush fund of 10 million Swiss francs (6.7 million euro, $8 million, according to the exchange rate at that time) in 2000 to buy the right to host the 2006 World Cup finals.
FIFA opened a probe on March 22 targeting six people including Niersbach and Franz Beckenbauer, the German football legend and World Cup organising committee chief, over their roles in the bidding process, amid allegations of bribery.
Niersbach is accused of “not reporting the violation of the (FIFA) ethics code” by others.
The FIFA ethics committee inquiry follows the release of a report commissioned by the DFB into the 2006 World Cup bidding.
That report, released on March 4, said it could not rule out that Germany bought votes to secure the tournament, and linked Beckenbauer to a “mysterious” deal with disgraced FIFA official Jack Warner.
Along with Beckenbauer, FIFA’s in-house prosecutors are investigating three other ex-DFB officials for “possible undue payments and contracts to gain an advantage in the 2006 FIFA World Cup host selection”.
They are Theo Zwanziger, a former German federation president, Horst R. Schmidt, an ex-DFB secretary general and Stefan Hans, the DFB’s former chief financial officer.
Helmut Sandrock, another former DFB secretary general, is along with Niersbach being probed for allegedly failing in his “duties of disclosure”.
The launch of a fresh corruption investigation comes as FIFA’s new president Gianni Infantino is trying to turn the page on the scandal-ridden administration led by Sepp Blatter, whose presidency ended in disgrace last month.
German football has been roiled by allegations, first levelled by magazine Spiegel last October that the DFB used a slush fund to buy votes to secure the 2016 World Cup.
The DFB inquiry, carried out by the law firm Freshfields, outlined a money trail linking Beckenbauer, former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus and Qatar’s Mohammed bin Hammam, who has since been banned from football for life over corruption claims.
Swiss prosecutors are probing the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and want Bin Hamman to come to Bern for questioning.
A central issue in the German bid was a 10-million Swiss franc (6.7-million euro/ $8.0-million, according to the exchange rate at that time) payment that Spiegel said was borrowed by the DFB from the late Louis-Dreyfus.
It said the money was to buy the votes of four Asian members of FIFA’s 24-strong executive committee.
In 2000, Germany won the bid to stage the 2006 World Cup, beating South Africa by 12 votes to 11, with one abstention.
Separately, 39 people and two companies have also been charged with corruption by the US justice department, including many of Blatter’s former top deputies.
Blatter, and his one time heir apparent Michel Platini, have been banned from football for six years over ethics violations.