Football: Inquiry 'can't rule out' Germany bought votes for 2006 World Cup

Reinhard Grindel (left), treasurer of the German Football Association (DFB), and Reinhard Rauball (right), first vice president of the DFB, attend the presentation of the investigation report on the affair surrounding the Fifa World Cup 2006 in Frank
Reinhard Grindel (left), treasurer of the German Football Association (DFB), and Reinhard Rauball (right), first vice president of the DFB, attend the presentation of the investigation report on the affair surrounding the Fifa World Cup 2006 in Frankfurt Main, Germany, on March 4, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

BERLIN6 (AFP) - An independent inquiry said on Friday (March 4) it could not rule out Germany bought votes to secure the 2006 World Cup and linked Franz Beckenbauer to a "mysterious" deal with disgraced Fifa official Jack Warner.

The investigation commissioned by the German Football Federation (DFB) said that some paper documents were missing, electronic files were password-protected, and some key witnesses refused to cooperate.

World body Fifa separately complained that its investigation into the 2006 World Cup had been "hampered" by key witnesses who refused to give evidence.

The German inquiry outlined a money trail linking Beckenbauer, the national football legend and World Cup organising committee chief, former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus and Qatar's Mohammed bin Hammam, who has since been banned from football for life over corruption claims.

Beckenbauer was warned and fined by Fifa last month for his failure to cooperate with a separate investigation into the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

"We have no proof that votes were bought, but we cannot rule this out," said Christian Duve of Freshfields, the law firm commissioned to probe corruption allegations.

"We have been able to see that there could have been a change in the voting behaviour and this could have affected Asian Fifa officials," he added.

Fifa welcomed the report, but said "many questions still remain to be answered." It added that its inquiry into Germany's 2006 bid had been "hampered" by key witnesses refusing to give evidence.

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

It is the latest in a series of scandals to rock world football. Thirty-nine individuals face US charges over more than US$200 million (S$275 million) in bribes for football deals.

Swiss authorities are investigating Fifa whose longtime president Sepp Blatter has been banned for six years.

At the heart of the German claims was a 10 million Swiss franc (6.7 million euro/ $8 million, according to the exchange rate at that time) payment that Spiegel said was borrowed by the DFB from the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, when he was CEO of German sportswear giant Adidas.

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.

Following the allegations, the DFB's former boss Wolfgang Niersbach claimed the federation had transferred the 10 million Swiss francs to Fifa to obtain a grant worth 250 million Swiss francs (about 170 million euros).

In the 380 page report, Freshfields confirmed that the sum was borrowed from Louis-Dreyfus, but also drew a link to Beckenbauer and his adviser Robert Schwan.

Beckenbauer or Schwan apparently paid six million Swiss francs into a joint account with Louis-Dreyfus from which money was transferred to a Qatari account reportedly linked to bin Hammam.

However the money transfer to Qatar was made in 2002, two years after the hosting rights were awarded.

Freshfields said the fund remains mysterious.

"It is not clear whether the payment of 10 million francs was used only to secure a funding grant of Fifa amounting to 250 million francs, or for other purposes," it said.

Duve said that although the payments raised questions, the inquiry was unable to establish a direct link to World Cup votes.

"It is correct that 10 million francs landed somewhere in Qatar... but from there on we would be in the area of speculation and we have been charged with establishing the facts," he told journalists.

Freshfields also questioned a contract between Beckenbauer and Warner, then president of the North, Central American and Caribbean football confederation CONCACAF.

"It remains mysterious why four days before the World Cup 2006 was awarded to Germany, Franz Beckenbauer on behalf of DFB and Jack Warner on behalf of CONCACAF signed a deal that offered significant benefits to Jack Warner and CONCACAF," he said.

The contract included "unusual items" including 1,000 tickets of the most expensive category for the World Cup finals promised to Warner as well as paid flight tickets, Duve said.

Warner is one of the 39 people indicted by US authorities and is fighting extradition from his native Trinidad and Tobago to the United States.

DFB interim chief Rainer Koch said it was too early "to speak about consequences" arising from the inquiry, adding that the federation needed time to examine if legal action should be taken.