High-profile FIFA case falls victim to the coronavirus

Zidane and Materazzi: the iconic moment from World Cup 2006, immortalized in a statue in Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup. Keystone / Str

The trial of four former top football officials over suspicious payments linked to the 2006 World Cup in Germany has been suspended again, meaning a verdict will not be reached.

This content was published on April 21, 2020 - 18:32

The suspension of the trial by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court means a verdict is impossible before next Monday – the day on which the statute of limitations on the allegations expires.

The proceedings, which centre on a €6.7 million payment made 15 years ago in the lead-up to the World Cup in Germany, was suspended already in March due to Covid-19 disruption.

The four defendants – former members of Germany’s World Cup organizing committee, as well as a Swiss former top FIFA official – are mostly all at least 70 years old, meaning they fall into the “at-risk” category for the current epidemic. German football legend Franz Beckenbauer, who was also linked to the payment but whose case is separate, had also been due to give evidence.

The Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) claimed that the 2005 payment was transferred from the German football federation to FIFA, where it ended up in the account of Mohammed bin Hammam, who at the time sat on the finance committee of football’s world governing body.

While the motive given by the defendants for the payment was that it was to fund a World Cup-related gala, prosecutors say it was destined to induce bin Hammam to release a larger sum of €250 million that the German federation needed to finance the World Cup.

The trial is one of some 25 that have been pursued involving FIFA since 2015 by the Attorney General’s Office. In February, in another high-profile case, it formally brought charges for bribery against former FIFA secretary-general Jérôme Valcke, and boss of the Paris Saint-Germain club, Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

Judges said on Tuesday that due to the suspension of the trial, defendants will be entitled to compensation for legal fees; details on this have not yet been decided.

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