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Germany

Munich's Soccer Stadium in Spotlight

The president of German soccer club 1860 Munich is being held on charges of accepting bribes in connection with the building of the city's new stadium, which will host the opening match of the 2006 World Cup.

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The Allianz Arena -- still waiting for kick off in 2006

When World Cup soccer comes homes to Germany in two years, soccer fans around the world will tune into Munich's Allianz Arena for the kick off of the 2006 games. But even as the stadium is being built, it's drawing attention beyond the Bavarian city.

On Tuesday, the president of Germany's first division soccer club 1860 Munich was arrested on charges of taking bribes from the Austrian construction company building the city's new 280 million ($346 million) soccer stadium. The city's prosecutor's office said Karl-Heinz Wildmoser was being held on possible charges of corruption, tax evasion and criminal breach of trust.

Scandal in the stadium

The club president and his son, Wildmoser junior, and two other men are suspected of pocketing €2.8 million, or one percent of the overall construction costs of the new stadium which will house Wildmoser's club and Germany's champion Bayern Munich, said the chief prosecutor in the case, Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld.

Late Tuesday evening, one of the detainees allegedly made a full confession and was released. The 64-year old Wildmoser and his son, however, remain in police custody. As of Wednesday afternoon, it wasn't certain to what extent Wildmoser senior was actually involved in the affair. According to one of the suspects, the younger Wildmoser was primarily responsible for taking kickbacks from the Austrian construction company Alpine, while the club president was largely kept in the dark.

Until the Bavarian state criminal investigators and tax office can sort through the case, the bank accounts and real estate investments of both father and son have been frozen.

Karl-Heinz-Wildmoser Fußball Korruption

Karl-Heinz Wildmoser

Speaking through his lawyer on Wednesday, Wildmoser senior said he would step down from his position at 1860 Munich, where he has been president since 1992. "He does not want to put a strain on the club he has devoted everything to and will step down from his duties," Steffen Ufer announced on behalf of his client

World Cup venue

The arrests of the father and son, who is a manager of the stadium holding company, followed extensive police raids on the club's offices and homes of the two Wildmosers. An army of police and tax officials also searched more than 30 offices and homes in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The offices of Bayern Munich were also searched, but prosecutors assured the German champion club was not the target.

Munich's two first division soccer clubs are jointly building the stadium, and the German insurer Allianz has bought the name rights. The 66,000-seat arena is scheduled to be completed in 2005, well in time for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Baustelle Fußballstadion Allianz Arena in München

Construction is underway at the Allianz Arena in Munich

The Munich stadium will host the opening game of the international competition and one of the semifinals, plus four other World Cup matches. But now, it seems, the scandal has racked up a goal against the stadium and crushed the city's fans anticipation ahead of the high-profile games.

"This is a terrible blow for 1860 and for the whole soccer scene, and for the reputation of Munich," the city's mayor Christian Ude said speaking for many in the Bavarian capital.

Organizers of the World Cup, however, remained confident the scandal in Munich would not threaten the completion of the stadium.

"We don't think the construction of the stadium has been jeopardized and it's still very much in our plans for 2006," said World Cup spokesman Jens Grittner.

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