GENEVA (AP) — FIFA’s ethics judges closed a bribery investigation against German great Franz Beckenbauer because a statute of limitations expired, soccer’s world governing body said Thursday.
Beckenbauer and other German officials who helped organize the 2006 World Cup had been subject to a FIFA ethics investigation opened in 2016. There was no time limitation on bribery prosecutions in FIFA’s ethics code until it amended the rules in 2018 to add a 10-year limit.
Cases against Theo Zwanziger, who once replaced Beckenbauer on the FIFA executive committee member, and Horst Schmidt were also closed, FIFA said Thursday.
The case involved a complex trail of suspect payments between the German World Cup organizers, FIFA and Qatari soccer official Mohamed bin Hammam ahead of the 2006 tournament.
“His medical condition did not prevent him from attending events, traveling to foreign countries (despite the COVID pandemic), posing for pictures, making speeches, and giving at least three interviews,” FIFA judges said in their ruling.
“In particular, he did not appear to have any memory problems remembering matches of the 1990 FIFA World Cup, an event occurring 30 years ago, in vivid detail,” the ruling said.
Beckenbauer became the first player to both captain and coach a World Cup-winning team. He lifted the trophy for West Germany in 1974, when it also hosted the tournament.
A three-time European Cup-winning captain with Bayern Munich, he left to play for New York Cosmos alongside Pelé.
The judges also said “Beckenbauer invoked his right to silence and refused to provide the investigatory chamber with any written or oral statement” requested between 2015 and 2018.
Beckenbauer also refused to attend three interviews with FIFA investigators citing that he had undergone “open heart surgery and was suffering from several medical conditions.”
Investigations began after an October 2015 report in Der Spiegel magazine claimed Germany’s bid to host the 2006 World Cup had a slush fund of 6.7 million euros (now $8.2 million) to buy votes.