German soccer federation raided on suspicion of tax evasion

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The headquarters of the German soccer federation and the private homes of some of its members were searched early Wednesday as part of an investigation into tax evasion.

About 200 officers were involved in the raids in the German states of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse, Lower Saxony and Rhineland-Palatinate, the Frankfurt public prosecutor’s office said.

“The investigations into suspected fraudulent corporate and trade tax evasion in particularly serious cases are directed against six former or current officials of the DFB,” public prosecutor Nadja Niesen said, referring to the soccer federation. “They are accused of deliberately wrongly declaring false income from perimeter advertising from home matches for the national soccer team from 2014 and 2015 as income from asset management.”

The German federation is suspected of avoiding paying taxes of about 4.7 million euros ($5.5 million) for the period.

Federation president Fritz Keller said the body would “cooperate fully” with the latest investigations.

“I am in favor of clarification to have a clean future for soccer,” said Keller, who took over the scandal-hit federation in September 2019.

Keller’s predecessor, Reinhard Grindel, resigned the previous April amid allegations of undeclared earnings and for accepting a luxury watch worth about 6,000 euros ($7,000) from Ukrainian oligarch Grigoriy Surkis — a UEFA vice president and executive committee member at the time.

The authorities did not name any suspects connected to Wednesday’s raids.

Wolfgang Niersbach was the president of the federation at the time of the alleged tax evasion. Niersbach resigned in November 2015 when he was implicated in financial wrongdoing tied to organizing the 2006 World Cup.

Niersbach was among four defendants — three officials from the 2006 World Cup organizing committee, including Niersbach’s predecessor as president, Theo Zwanziger, and a former FIFA secretary general — whose trial in Switzerland opened and then collapsed in April. A statute of limitations expired on some evidence amid difficulties running the trial during the coronavirus pandemic.

“From the previous investigations, it seems that the accused knew about these tax irregularities, but chose them consciously in order to give the DFB a large tax advantage,” Niesen said of the latest accusations.

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