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Report: FBI probes Germany's 2006 World Cup bid

The US' FBI has started an investigation into the awarding of the 2006 soccer World Cup to Germany, the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" reports. A mysterious payment to FIFA, worth millions of dollars, remains the key issue.

The US investigators became the third organization to look into the 2002 payment, following similar probes by Swiss authorities and German prosecutors, German daily the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" reported on Saturday.

The German Football Association, DFB,

reportedly paid 10 million Swiss francs (6.7 million euros, $7.2 million) to FIFA in 2002,

two years after the country's successful World Cup bid. It is unclear who received the money, and the purpose of the payment remains disputed.

After the scandal broke last October, DFB President Wolfsgang Niersbach said that the sum was needed to unlock a much larger FIFA grant for the 2006 World Cup. FIFA has rejected the explanation.

Additionally, the funds themselves did not originate from DFB, but from the late CEO of German sports equipment company Adidas, Robert Louis-Dreyfus. He received the money back in 2005. World Cup organizers allegedly filed the funds as payment for a non-existing FIFA-Gala.

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German state attorneys suspect that DFB officials attempted to evade taxes by falsely declaring its purpose.

According to the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" report, the FBI is concerned with the parallels between the 2002 payment and an alleged $10 million bribe to disgraced FIFA representative Jack Warner in 2008. Warner is suspected of receiving money from the organizers of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The investigators were also alarmed by indications of another

deal between Warner and German football legend Franz Beckenbauer,

(pictured above) allegedly drafted just days before Germany was awarded the World Cup in the tight 2000 vote.

The DFB is currently without an elected president, after Niersbach stepped down in November to take "political responsibility" for the affair. Both Niersbach and Beckenbauer have

denied

any wrongdoing.

dj/jlw (AP, AFP, dpa)

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