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Football World Cup 2006: Summer fairy tale process started | sportschau.de

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Football World Cup 2006: Summer fairy tale process started |  sportschau.de

As of: March 4, 2024 4:06 p.m

On the first day of the trial against three former top DFB officials, the defendants and their defense lawyers went on the offensive. It is difficult to say whether this will be successful.

The first day of the trial had just ended when a crowd formed around Theo Zwanziger, one of the three defendants in the so-called summer fairy tale trial. “It’s not that if you wear a robe you are in possession of the truth,” Zwanziger said into the several microphones held to his mouth.

Zwanziger also used to wear a robe. He was a judge and lawyer, and on Monday (March 4th, 2024) in front of the regional court in Frankfurt am Main he sounded as if he was definitely right. Zwanziger, a top official of the German Football Association (DFB) for many years and its president between 2006 and 2012, considers himself innocent and even wrongfully accused. He has this in common with Wolfgang Niersbach, also a former DFB president, and Horst R. Schmidt, former general secretary of the DFB.

The “Summer Fairy Tale Process”

The three defendants, Theo Zwanziger, Horst R. Schmidt and Wolfgang Niersbach, are accused of tax evasion in a particularly serious case. You had declared a payment of 6.7 million euros as a business expense in the DFB’s tax return for 2006. This would have resulted in a lower tax liability. However, the prosecution assumes that the reason for the payment (subsidy for a FIFA gala that never took place) was intended to conceal the true purpose. It does not recognize the profit-reducing expense as such and therefore assumes tax evasion.

The defendants protest their innocence.

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Double persecution as a central concept

When explaining the reasons, a term that is also known from football was often mentioned: double punishment. Just like double jeopardy in the legal system, it means that no one can be tried twice for the same offense. Since proceedings in Switzerland against the same accused have been discontinued, there should not be any further hearings in Frankfurt.

The Frankfurt Regional Court had also decided this, but the decision was overturned by the Higher Regional Court on the grounds that the alleged acts were not identical. Zwanziger then referred to his saying about the robe, which does not guarantee truth.

But now they were there, had to be there and endure the “tortures of the proceedings,” as Niersbach’s lawyer said.

Joint application by Niersbach and Schmidt

How long this will continue depends on the answer to the question of whether the criminal chamber considers double prosecution to be a given. A joint application from Niersbach (73) and Schmidt, who is nine years older, is based on this assumption.

Zwanziger, on the other hand, wants evidence to be taken in order to get the acquittal that all the lawyers predicted.

Eva-Maria Distel, presiding judge of the 2nd Large Criminal Chamber, had initially asked for “calm and professional composure”, even though she knew that the trial was “not an everyday occurrence” because of the long-standing allegations and the overwhelming public interest.

Zwanziger lawyer: “Prosecution of celebrities before finding the truth”

In their interactions, those involved followed the request, but their tone became sharp. Here, the “persecution of celebrities takes precedence over finding the truth,” said Zwanziger’s lawyer. His colleagues also accused the public prosecutor of going through with the procedure for the sake of the procedure.

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Senior public prosecutor Jesco Kümmel dismissed the allegations, but in a very defensive manner. He repeatedly expressed his understanding for the defendants, who were exposed to a “massive burden,” also because of their age.

He also offered the defendants to hold further discussions about discontinuing the proceedings in return for a probable payment of money. That would be neither an acquittal nor an admission of guilt, but an early end to the trial, which is scheduled to last until the fall. Schmidt’s defense spoke out in favor of negotiating a deal, Judge Distel was open, “but not at this point in time.”

New insights about the 6.7 million euros?

There are court cases where it becomes clear on the first day which direction the case is going. The prognosis for the trial against the former DFB officials is difficult.

If negotiations take a long time, will there be any insight into what the ominous payment of 6.7 million euros was really for? Or will there only be an answer as to whether the payment – as alleged by the prosecution – was incorrectly declared in the DFB’s 2006 tax return and represents tax evasion in a particularly serious case?

“Criminal liability is ruled out,” said a lawyer for Horst R. Schmidt, before ending with the sentence: “The fact remains: The summer fairy tale was great, and it remains the best World Cup of all time.”

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