A German court on Monday rejected a tax evasion case against three former top football officials that erupted following a scandal over vote-buying allegations for the right to host the 2006 World Cup.
The court told AFP’s sports subsidiary SID that it will not hear a case brought by prosecutors against former German Football Association (DFB) presidents and Wolfgang Niersbach, as well as ex-DFB general secretary Horst R. Schmidt.
Prosecutors now have a week to challenge the decision at a higher court.
They had issued an indictment on May 15, accusing the former officials of having filed a wrongful tax declaration in 2006, the year Germany hosted the international football championship.
All three former officials had rejected the allegations.
“I have always said that the accusations against me are completely baseless. I’m now simply very relieved,” Niersbach told SID on Monday.
Zwanziger called the court’s decision “good and appropriate” while Schmidt’s lawyers stressed that “at no time was Schmidt culpable.”
The wider scandal first came to light in October 2015, when news magazine Der Spiegel accused Germany of having used a secret slush fund to buy votes in support of its bid to host the 2006 World Cup.
The fund reportedly held 10 million Swiss francs, or 6.7 million euros ($7.8 million) according to the exchange rate at the time.
The money was allegedly provided by the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, head of German sportswear giant Adidas, at the request of football legend Franz Beckenbauer, who headed the committee promoting Germany’s candidacy.
According to Der Spiegel, the DFB had borrowed the cash to buy the votes for the German bid.
The funds were originally reported to have been transferred for a World Cup opening gala, an event which never took place.
After the scandal erupted, Frankfurt’s tax office subsequently found that the DFB did not appropriately account for the 6.7 million euros, and fined it 19.2 million euros.