Focus on bribes as FIFA probes 6

A 1999 file photo of (from left) Wolfgang Niersbach, then a press officer and future head of the German FA, in Zurich with Sepp Blatter and Franz Beckenbauer, head of the bid committee for the 2006 World Cup.
A 1999 file photo of (from left) Wolfgang Niersbach, then a press officer and future head of the German FA, in Zurich with Sepp Blatter and Franz Beckenbauer, head of the bid committee for the 2006 World Cup.PHOTO: REUTERS

Beckenbauer and former German FA boss at centre of inquiry into possible buying of votes

GENEVA • Fifa's ethics committee on Tuesday launched an investigation targeting six people over their roles in the bidding process that awarded the 2006 World Cup to Germany, with the probe partly focused on alleged bribery.

Those targeted include Franz Beckenbauer, the German football legend and World Cup organising committee chief who is suspected of bribery, and Wolfgang Niersbach, former German football federation (DFB) president, who is being probed over possible failure to report Fifa ethics violations.

In a statement, Fifa's ethics committee said it opened the inquiry following the release of a report commissioned by the DFB into the 2006 World Cup bidding.

That report, released on March 4, said it could not rule out that Germany bought votes to secure the tournament, and linked Beckenbauer to a "mysterious" deal with disgraced Fifa official Jack Warner.

Along with Beckenbauer, Fifa's in-house prosecutors are investigating three other ex-DFB officials for "possible undue payments and contracts to gain an advantage in the 2006 Fifa World Cup host selection".

They are Theo Zwanziger, a former German federation president; Horst R. Schmidt, an ex-DFB secretary-general and Stefan Hans, the DFB's former chief financial officer.

Helmut Sandrock, another former DFB secretary-general, is along with Niersbach, being probed for allegedly failing in his "duties of disclosure".

The launch of a fresh corruption investigation comes as Fifa's new president Gianni Infantino is trying to turn the page on the scandal-ridden administration led by Sepp Blatter, whose presidency ended in disgrace last month.

The ethics committee statement said the German probe may widen further, noting that "the list of possible violations may be supplemented as additional information becomes available".

German football has been roiled by allegations, first levelled by magazine Der Spiegel last October, that the DFB used a slush fund to buy votes to secure the 2016 World Cup.

The DFB inquiry, carried out by the law firm Freshfields, outlined a money trail linking Beckenbauer, former adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus and Qatar's Mohammed Hammam, the former Asian Football Confederation chief now banned from football for life.

Swiss prosecutors are probing the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and want Hamman in Bern for questioning.

A central issue in the German bid was a 10 million Swiss franc (S$14 million) payment that Der Spiegel said was borrowed by the DFB from the late Louis-Dreyfus.

It said the money was to buy the votes of four Asian members of Fifa's 24-strong executive committee.

In 2000, Germany won the bid to stage the 2006 World Cup, beating South Africa by 12 votes to 11, with one abstention.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2016, with the headline 'FOCUS ON BRIBES AS FIFA PROBES 6'. Print Edition | Subscribe