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Soccer scandal embroils Telekom and Volkswagen

Prosecutors in Stuttgart are investigating several high-ranking employees at Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom on suspicion of corruption related to the Wolfsburg soccer team and a sponsorship contract.

Soccer players

Was the sponsorship extension tied to lucrative contracts?

Several employees of telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom and carmaker Volkswagen are being investigated on suspicion of corruption linked to a sponsorship contract for the soccer team VfL Wolfsburg.

The probe, first reported by the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, is based on suspicions that Telekom executives offered to extend their sponsorship agreement with the Wolfsburg if Volkswagen, the team's owner, agreed to service contracts worth several hundred million euros.

According to prosecutors, discussions of this type are illegal.

Investigators are looking into the activities of two former managers and a former consultant at Telekom subsidiary T-Systems as well as two employees of Volkswagen's purchasing department.

Last week, eight offices and residences were searched by authorities, including the headquarters of VfL Wolfsburg, sources told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. VfL Wolfsburg is a member of Germany's premier soccer league, the Bundesliga.

Irregularities

Telekom logo and dark clouds

Telekom kicked off the investigation itself after noticing irregularities

The investigation was launched when an executive at the Bonn-based Telekom noticed apparent irregularities at T-Systems, which provides a variety of Internet and telephony services to large corporate clients, such as Volkswagen.

A former manager at T-Systems was forced to step down in 2010 after coming under suspicion of corruption. Subsequently, Telekom notified the authorities and handed over documents relating to the case.

Company rules require a strict wall of separation between customer acquisition and sponsoring activities to avoid conflicts of interest.

Volkswagen has said that it would support the investigation fully. A Volksawagen spokesman on Tuesday told German media the company would also conduct its own probe into the affair.

Author: Kyle James (dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Sam Edmonds

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