BELLINZONA, Switzerland (AP) — The FIFA corruption trial in the fraud case linked to the 2006 World Cup was quickly adjourned Monday with three German soccer officials absent from the courtroom near the Swiss-Italian border, close to a coronavirus outbreak.
The trial, the first to be held in Switzerland in the five-year corruption investigation, was closed to the public. It was ordered to resume on Wednesday and is scheduled to last three weeks.
Defendants Theo Zwanziger, Horst Schmidt and Wolfgang Niersbach were members of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee, which was led by German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer. The fourth defendant, former FIFA secretary general Urs Linsi, was in court.
They all deny wrongdoing in the investigation of a 6.7 million euro ($7.6 million) payment in 2005 from the German soccer federation to FIFA.
Beckenbauer was a criminal suspect, but Swiss federal prosecutors did not indict him last August for health reasons. He is listed to testify this week in the trial of his former colleagues.
Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter is also listed to be a witness.
The indictment stated “the accused falsely claimed at a meeting with the supervisory board of the (2006 organizing committee) that the payment to FIFA would be a contribution” toward the tournament’s opening ceremony.
Swiss prosecutors believe the 2005 payment settled a loan Beckenbauer accepted three years earlier from Robert Louis-Dreyfus, a former Adidas executive and then part-owner of the Infront marketing agency. Louis-Dreyfus died in 2009.
The money ended up in the account of one-time FIFA powerbroker Mohamed bin Hammam, a Qatari who Swiss authorities said they were unable to question. The exact purpose of the money is unclear.
Prosecutors face a late-April deadline to complete the case before the statute of limitations runs out.
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