According a bombshell report out of Germany, there’s growing evidence to suggest that soccer officials there paid off four FIFA executives in exchange for their votes backing Germany’s 2006 World Cup hosting bid, and that FIFA helped launder the money.
German paper Der Spiegel has the details, and if its reporting bears out, it’s pretty damning:
In what could turn out to be the greatest crisis in German football since the Bundesliga bribery scandal of the 1970s, SPIEGEL has learned that the decision to award the 2006 World Cup to Germany was likely bought in the form of bribes. The German bidding committee set up a slush fund that was filled secretly by then-Adidas CEO Robert Louis-Dreyfus to the tune of 10.3 million Swiss francs, which at the time was worth 13 million deutsche marks.
Spiegel claims that Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who in his capacity as CEO of Adidas had close ties to the German soccer federation (DFB), gave the DFB a loan of €6.7 million (about $7.6 million USD) sometime before July 6, 2000, which was allegedly used to secure supporting votes of four FIFA executive committee members from Asia. No record of this money ever appeared in any official budget.
Germany had already garnered the support of the Europeans on the 24-member committee that has the final vote on who wins World Cup hosting rights, and with the votes of the four purportedly bribed members from Asia, Germany’s bid won 12-11 (one member abstained).
Sometime in 2005, Louis-Dreyfus sought to collect for the loan. At that point, Spiegel says Franz Beckenbauer, the leader of Germany’s World Cup bidding committee, and Wolfgang Niersbach, the head of the DFB, tried to concoct a way to pay him back without leaving a paper trail.
Here’s Spiegel on the shady laundering operation the Germans and FIFA came up with to facilitate the repayment:
Internal documents show that a cover was created with the help of global football organizing body FIFA to facilitate the payment. Using the cover, the Germans made a €6.7 million contribution for a gala FIFA Opening Ceremony that had been planned at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium but was later cancelled. The money had been paid into a FIFA bank account in Geneva. From there, FIFA allegedly promptly transferred the money to a Zurich account belonging to Louis-Dreyfus.
For its part, the DFB has released a statement denying the allegations. In light of the other bribery scandals that have rocked FIFA recently, they have already been looking into the 2006 bidding process. An internal audit revealed “no irregularities” in terms of outside money (i.e., Louis-Dreyfus’s loan) nor any evidence of bribery.
(Keep in mind, neither of those statements are inconsistent with Spiegel’s reporting; the paper already acknowledged that the loan never appeared on the books, and, as for the lack of evidence of bribery, you’d have to be pretty stupid to take notes on a criminal conspiracy.)
The DFB did find in their records the €6.7 million payment to FIFA for the ultimately canceled gala, which they admit “may not have been used for its stated purpose.”
Spiegel could not contact two of the principles in this matter, as Louis-Dreyfus and one of the executive committee members alleged to have been on the take have passed away. Two of the other ex-co members never got back to them, while the third “said only that the questions were unworthy of a response.”
The name of that last delegate? Chung Mong-joon, the former FIFA vice-president who just last week blasted Sepp Blatter for his corruption, even while facing his own ethics investigation. There truly are no good guys here.
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