German football was thrown into crisis with reports surfacing that officials had used bribes to land the 2006 World Cup. World football governing body FIFA said it would launch its own investigation.
A report from the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel said the German World Cup bid committee had a slush fund of 10.3 million Swiss francs ($10.8 million) that was used to secure the votes of four Asian delegates at the deciding vote at football's governing body FIFA in 2000.
"These are very serious allegations," the governing body said, adding that they would be examined as part of ongoing, independent, internal investigations.
Beckenbauer and Niersbach alleged to be complicit
The Spiegel report alleges that the money never appeared in any budget for the bid and organizing committee, and that Louis-Dreyfus reportedly wanted the sum back in 2005.
The funds were sent to FIFA, officially for a planned but later canceled opening gala on the eve of the tournament, and was later to be returned to Louis-Dreyfus, Der Spiegel said.
DFB dismisses claims, FIFA launches investigation
The German football federation DFB squarely dismissed allegations of irregularities and vote-buying in connection with the country's hosting of the 2006 World Cup but did not rule out that a payment from 2005 might have been improperly used by FIFA. That payment referred to the amount demanded by Louis-Dreyfus.
"After thorough examination and auditing, the DFB have found no evidence of any irregularities," its statement said.
The 2006 World Cup in Germany was hailed as a 'summer tale' but recent allegations may taint its memory
"Furthermore, there is no evidence that any of the delegates' votes were won illegally at any stage in the application process. Through the investigations, DFB became aware that a 6.7-million-euro payment, which was paid to FIFA in April 2005 by the organizational committee of the 2006 World Cup, may not have been used for its intended purpose (the FIFA culture program). This payment was in no way linked to the awarding of the 2006 World Cup, which had been decided five years previously." FIFA said it had handed the issue to its audit and compliance commission to investigate while Der Spiegel alleged the money was part of a slush fund to land the 2006 World Cup. The DFB also said that it was also looking into "any issues pertaining to DFB's claim to any potential repayment."
Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas told the Bild newspaper: "These allegations must be clarified uncompromisingly. Football fans deserve the right."
The DFB meanwhile released a separate statement in which it said that it reserved the right to take legal steps against Der Spiegel.
Probes into South Africa, Russia and Qatar
Germany narrowly beat South Africa with 12 to 11 votes, securing the World Cup for 2006. South Africa later got the World Cup for 2010. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa has also been the subject of speculation amid corruption allegations swirling around FIFA. An official investigation into bribery was launched recently.
US authorities have been investigating the transfer of $10 million paid by FIFA on behalf of the South African organizers. South African Sports Minister Fikile Mbalulahas has denied the payment was a bribe.
FIFA is already involved in US and Swiss investigations into allegations of high-level corruption involving the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar. Swiss authorities also began their own investigation and last month opened criminal proceedings against outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter for criminal mismanagement.
ss/jm (AP, Reuters, SID, dpa)