ZURICH — German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer and FIFA vice president Angel Maria Villar have been investigated by ethics prosecutors and are awaiting verdicts in their cases, the governing body’s ethics panel said Wednesday.
Both Beckenbauer and Villar — now serving as FIFA’s No. 2 official while President Sepp Blatter is suspended — have previously been identified by media as targets of the investigation into the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Both men face sanctions for obstructing then-FIFA prosecutor Michael Garcia’s investigation, ethics committee spokesman Marc Tenbuecken told The Associated Press.
With Garcia’s inquiry failing to find evidence of corruption involving Russia and Qatar, it falls to a criminal investigation of suspected money laundering led by Switzerland’s attorney general to ascertain whether there was any financial wrongdoing in those World Cup bidding contests. The Russian and Qatari awards have been tainted by five years of so-far unproven allegations.
The official disclosure Wednesday inflicts more damage on FIFA, which is reeling from waves of corruption allegations that led the ethics committee two weeks ago to suspend Blatter and the front-runner to succeed him as president, Michel Platini.
Beckenbauer, who captained and coached World Cup-winning West Germany teams, twice refused to meet with Garcia and was barred from traveling to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil by a provisional suspension. It was lifted during the tournament when he sent answers to Garcia.
Villar, a lawyer who chairs FIFA’s legal committee, tried to have Garcia thrown off the case in March 2014 after the prosecutor came to Zurich to question FIFA officials.
Further cases seem sure to follow for embattled FIFA, whose 209 member federations will elect a new president in February.
Thumbnail photo via Matthias Schrader/The Associated Press