March 22, 2016

ZURICH (AP) The FIFA ethics committee opened a bribery investigation Tuesday into Franz Beckenbauer and other officials from Germany's 2006 World Cup bid team.

Ethics prosecutors acted amid rising suspicion of wrongdoing linked to the winning of hosting rights in 2000, and irregular seven-figure payments years later.

Beckenbauer, FIFA executive committee member Wolfgang Niersbach and other officials were targeted three weeks ago in an inquiry report by a law firm commissioned by the German soccer federation.

The new case relates to ''the 2006 FIFA World Cup host selection and its associated funding,'' FIFA ethics prosecutors said in a statement.

Beckenbauer is among four officials linked to suspect payments and contracts during the bidding process which he led. Germany won by beating South Africa, whose bid was supported by Nelson Mandela, 12-11 in a vote of FIFA executive committee members.

''The investigatory chamber will investigate possible undue payments and contracts to gain an advantage in the 2006 FIFA World Cup host selection and the associated funding,'' the FIFA ethics committee said.

The other three German officials linked to possible bribery are: Theo Zwanziger, who replaced Beckenbauer on the FIFA executive committee member in 2011; Horst Schmidt, vice president of the World Cup organizing panel; and Stefan Hans, chief financial officer for the organizers.

Niersbach and 2006 tournament director Helmut Sandrock are under investigation for ''possible failure to report'' unethical conduct and conflicts of interest.

''The list of possible violations may be supplemented as additional information becomes available,'' FIFA ethics prosecutors said.

Investigations by German prosecutors and tax officials into the 2006 World Cup forced Niersbach and Sandrock to resign in recent months as president and general secretary, respectively, of the German soccer federation.

Frankfurt prosecutors are conducting a tax evasion investigation of the German federation that implicates former presidents Niersbach and Zwanziger.

Swiss federal prosecutors are also investigating the 2006 World Cup allegations as part of a wider probe of FIFA's business that has already put former president Sepp Blatter under criminal investigation.

Beckenbauer is back under suspicion at FIFA one month after its ethics judges sanctioned him in a separate case.

The German soccer icon was warned and fined 7,000 Swiss francs for refusing to co-operate with a FIFA ethics investigation of the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contest.

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