World Cup payments trial begins in an empty Swiss courtroom
BELLINZONA - The trial of three former senior officials in the German football federation DFB in connection with payments linked to the 2006 World Cup opened in Switzerland on Monday before an empty courtroom due to concerns about the coronavirus.
Former DFB presidents Theo Zwanziger (74) and Wolfgang Niersbach (69), and the former general secretary Horst R. Schmidt (78) did not attend the proceedings in Bellinzona due to health reasons.
The 70-year-old Urs Linsi, a former general secretary of world football governing body FIFA, did appear in court in his home country charged with disloyal business management.
The quartet are said to have knowingly incorrectly declared the payment of 6.7 million euros (7.5 million dollars) by the DFB to FIFA in 2005.
Judge Sylvia Frei opened trial after a two-hour delay and rejected all requests from the defendants including one from Niersbach to suspended the trial due to the exclusion of the public.
Journalists were able to watch the proceedings, expected to last nearly two weeks, via video link.
Ex-FIFA boss Joseph Blatter and then-World Cup organization chief Franz Beckenbauer are invited as witnesses.
Swiss proceedings against Beckenbauer were split off from the trial against the four other defendants, in light of Beckenbauer's health.
The DFB has said the Swiss criminal proceedings are to deal with "the question of whether the accused have misled the responsible bodies of the German football federation about the true reason for a payment to FIFA in 2005, and have damaged the assets of the DFB as a result of this or through another breach of duty."
Unless the court reaches a verdict by April 27, the statute of limitations on the alleged crimes will expire.dpa