Slush fund allegedly used to buy votes for Germany's 2006 World Cup - report

BERLIN: German football was thrown into turmoil on Friday when magazine Der Spiegel said the country's football officials had used a slush fund to win votes and land the 2006 World Cup.

The magazine said the late CEO of sports maker Adidas, Robert Louis-Dreyfus, had loaned the 2006 World Cup bid committee around 6.5 million euros ($7.4 million) to help land the necessary support in a July 2000 vote.

Germany edged out favourites South Africa by 12 votes to 11 to secure the 2006 tournament.

FIFA is already mired 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.

Der Spiegel, which did not identify its sources for the allegations, said 2006 World Cup chief Franz Beckenbauer and his vice president Wolfgang Niersbach, the current head of Germany's football association (DFB), were aware of the loan from Louis-Dreyfus.

The DFB rejected the allegations, saying there were no slush funds or cash-for-votes.

"The DFB resolutely rejects the completely groundless allegations of the magazine Der Spiegel that there were 'slush funds' in relation to the bid committee of the 2006 World Cup," it said in a statement.

"It equally vehemently rejects the authors' conclusions drawn without any facts that votes were bought for the World Cup. The DFB clearly repeats that neither the DFB president nor the other members of the organising committee were involved in such actions or knew about them."

FIFA said it would investigate the claims.

"These are very serious allegations," a FIFA official told Reuters. "They will be reviewed as part of the independent internal investigation currently being conducted by FIFA under the direction of its legal director with the assistance of outside counsel."

Beckenbauer, a former World Cup winning player and coach, did not immediately respond to repeated Reuters' requests for comment.

BROADER FIFA INVESTIGATION

Der Spiegel said Louis-Dreyfus got his money back in 2005 via a FIFA payment disguised as funds for the football body's cultural programme during the tournament in Germany.

Sports equipment maker Adidas, a long-time DFB sponsor, said it was unaware of any such payment.

"We know nothing of such a payment from Robert Louis-Dreyfus," an Adidas official told Reuters. "We can rule out that this is part of Adidas AG business process.

Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas told the Bild newspaper: "These allegations must be clarified uncompromisingly. Football fans deserve the right."

If true, the latest allegations are more bad news for FIFA, which in May was plunged into the biggest crisis of its 111-year history, when 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives were indicted in the United States on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges involving more than $150 million in payments.

Earlier on Friday, the DFB said an internal probe found no indication of wrongdoing in the overall process that awarded the 2006 World Cup tournament to Germany, a tournament eventually won by Italy.

But it said it was looking into a 6.7-million-euro ($7.6-million) payment made in 2005 from the country's 2006 World Cup organising committee to FIFA that may not have been used as intended.

"This may potentially not have been used for the intended purpose," the association said, adding it was looking at all legal aspects of the case and the potential for a possible demand for the return of the money.

Following the FIFA arrests, Swiss authorities began their own investigation and last month opened criminal proceedings against outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter for criminal mismanagement.

UEFA president Michel Platini, who is standing in the FIFA presidential election scheduled for Feb. 26, and incumbent Sepp Blatter were banned for 90 days by the FIFA Ethics Committee last week pending a full investigation into both men's activities.

Switzerland's attorney general's office initiated criminal proceedings against Blatter over a two million Swiss francs ($2.1 million) payment from FIFA to Platini in 2011 for work carried out by the Frenchman between 1998 and 2002. Both men deny any wrongdoing.