German vote-buying still a possibility: Inquiry

BERLIN • An inquiry into allegations that Germany bought votes to win the hosting rights for the 2006 World Cup said yesterday it could not rule out the possibility that bribes were paid.

"We have no proof that votes were bought, but we cannot rule this out," said Christian Duve from Freshfields, a law firm commissioned by the German Football Federation (DFB) to probe corruption allegations.

Duve added, however, that "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".

German football has been roiled by allegations that first emerged in magazine Spiegel that the DFB used a slush fund to buy votes in order to host the tournament.

At the heart of the claims was a €6.7 million (10 million Swiss francs at that time's exchange rate, S$10.1 million at current) payment that Spiegel said was borrowed by DFB from Robert Louis-Dreyfus, the former chief executive of adidas, in order to buy the votes of four Asian members of Fifa's 24-strong executive committee.

Following the allegations, the DFB's former boss Wolfgang Niersbach had claimed that the federation had transferred the 10 million francs to Fifa in order to obtain a grant worth 250 million francs.

In the report running to 380 pages, Freshfields confirmed that the sum was borrowed from Louis-Dreyfus, but said it failed to obtain clarity on what the sum was ultimately used for.

"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."

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

Fifa said it welcomed the inquiry into the German campaign.

"However, many questions still remain to be answered. Fifa's investigation has been hampered by the fact that key witnesses were not willing to answer questions or provide documents," said a Fifa statement.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2016, with the headline 'German vote-buying still a possibility: Inquiry'. Print Edition | Subscribe