LONDON: Franz Beckenbauer was facing up to five years in prison last night (Thursday) after being placed under criminal investigation over his role in the alleged 2006 World Cup bribery scandal.
The Germany legend's home in Austria was raided in a co-ordinated search of eight locations orchestrated by Swiss federal prosecutors probing the award of the tournament via a contest that included England.
Beckenbauer and three other members of Germany's 2006 World Cup organising committee were also questioned on suspicion of fraud, money laundering, criminal mismanagement and misappropriation relating to a payment of euros 6.7 million (pounds 5.6 million) to Fifa in 2005. Each faces up to five years in prison if found guilty.
Beckenbauer has always denied bribery. He is one of three suspects who are past or current members of the Fifa executive committee, the other two being Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach. The fourth is Horst Schmidt, vice-president of the 2006 World Cup organising committee. Beckenbauer, who was president of that committee, Zwanziger and Schmidt have been under investigation for suspected bribery for several months by Fifa's ethics committee.
The Swiss criminal case, formally opened last November but confirmed only yesterday, threatens to wreck the reputation of the 70-year-old Beckenbauer, arguably his country's greatest ever player who both captained and coached West Germany to the World Cup.
In February, the German Football Association published the findings of an independent 361-page inquiry that tried to explain a complex trail of payments of euros 6.7?million and 10 million Swiss francs (pounds 7.7?million) being investigated by German and Swiss authorities. The money linked Beckenbauer, then-Fifa president Sepp Blatter, Fifa powerbroker Mohamed bin Hammam and Robert Louis-Dreyfus, the late former Adidas executive.
Last October, Beckenbauer said he did not give "money to anyone in order to buy votes".
But, in a statement, he added: "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."