Geneva: Fifa’s ethics committee yesterday launched an investigation targeting six people over their roles in the bidding 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 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 bin Hammam, who has since been banned from football for life over corruption claims.
Swiss prosecutors are probing the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and want Bin Hamman to come to Bern for questioning.
A central issue in the German bid was a 10-million Swiss franc ($8m, according to the exchange rate at that time) payment that 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.
Separately, 39 people and two companies have also been charged with corruption by the US justice department, including many of Blatter’s former top deputies.
Blatter, and his one time heir apparent Michel Platini, have been banned from football for six years over ethics violations.