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German football officials face trial over World Cup tax evasion charges

Four former top football officials face trial in Germany after a Frankfurt court ruled Monday they must answer tax evasion charges linked to the 2006 World Cup vote-buying scandal.

German football officials face trial over World Cup tax evasion charges
Former German Football Association (DFB) presidents Theo Zwanziger and Wolfsgang Niersbach. Photo: DPA

The court ruled that ex-German Football Association (DFB) presidents Wolfsgang Niersbach and Theo Zwanziger, as well as former general secretary Horst R. Schmidt, are accused of tax evasion, or aiding and abetting it, over a €6.7 million slush fund.

The Swiss Urs Linsi, former general-secretary of world football's governing body FIFA, will also stand trial alongside the Germans with all four under “sufficient suspicion” of tax fraud, according to a court statement.

A shadow has been thrown over Germany's successful hosting of the 2006 World Cup, often referred to as “Das Sommermärchen” or Summer Fairytale, which became a nightmare for organizers after accusations emerged in 2015 of a vote-buying fund to secure the finals.

On Monday, the court validated an indictment against the quartet, who deny the charges. This paves the way for a trial, overturning a regional court's decision last October to reject a tax evasion case.

Three weeks ago, Swiss prosecutors also brought tax fraud charges over the sum – a secret fund of 10 million Swiss francs, €6.7 million at the time – and the quartet face a separate trial in Switzerland.

German football legend Franz Beckenbauer, 73, who chaired the 2006 World Cup organizing committee, could also face charges in Switzerland, but his case has been separated because of his poor health.

Monday's twist is the latest in a scandal which came to light in October 2015, when news magazine Der Spiegel broke the scandal.

The money was allegedly provided by the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, head of German sportswear giant Adidas, at the request of football legend Beckenbauer, who headed the committee promoting Germany's candidacy.

According to Der Spiegel, the DFB had borrowed the cash to buy some of the votes for the German bid.

READ ALSO: Remembering the time Brits turned sleepy spa town Baden-Baden into Germany's party capital 

The funds were originally reported to have been transferred for a World Cup opening gala, an event which never took place.

After the scandal erupted, Frankfurt's tax office found that the DFB did not appropriately account for the €6.7 million, and fined it €19.2 million.

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FOOTBALL

British football teams allowed to skip Germany’s quarantine for Euro 2020

Germany's government announced on Tuesday it will allow England, Scotland and Wales to enter the country without quarantine to play at Euro 2020 despite a recent rise in cases linked to the Delta variant of Covid-19 in Britain.

British football teams allowed to skip Germany's quarantine for Euro 2020
One of the venues for Euro 2020 is in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

The three teams could potentially reach the quarter-final held in Munich on July 2nd.

If that were the case, they would be exempt from the rule that travellers from the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland must currently observe a 14-day isolation period due to the virus strain of concern – Delta – first identified in India.

“The people accredited for the European football Championship are exempt from the quarantine obligation, even after arriving from an area impacted by a variant” Berlin said in a statement.

“This exemption concerns all the people who have been accredited by the organising committee for the preparation, participation, the holding and the follow-up of international sporting events,” it added.

The exemption does not include fans, who will be obliged to follow German government self-isolation rules.

Germany declared the UK a ‘virus variant area of concern’ on May 23rd due to rising cases linked to the Delta variant in parts of the country. 

READ ALSO: Germany makes UK ‘virus variant area of concern’: How does it affect you?

This reclassification came just seven days after the UK was put back on Germany’s list at the lowest risk level, and barely a month after it was taken off all risk lists completely.

The ban was put in place despite the UK’s relatively low Covid rates as a precautionary measure.

A general ban on entry is in place for people coming from countries on the ‘virus variant’ list – such as India and Brazil – the highest of Germany’s risk categories. 

There are some exceptions for entering from these countries – for example German residents and citizens. However, anyone who does enter from Germany is required to submit a Covid-19 test before boarding the flight and must quarantine for 14 days on arrival, regardless of whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

READ ALSO: Germany’s new relaxed quarantine and testing rules after travel

Euro 2020 starts on Friday as Italy host Turkey in Rome with the Bavarian city hosting three group games as well as the last-eight match.

Around 14,000 fans will be allowed into the Allianz Arena for the fixtures.

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