FIFA ethics committee looks at probe into German payments

FIFA's ethics committee is examining a law firm's report into investigations of payments made by German officials in connection with the 2006 World Cup.

No swift decisions are expected in view of the extent of the report by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer although provisional suspensions would be possible in the event of serious suspicions of ethics breaches, dpa has learned.

Former German Football Association (DFB) president Wolfgang Niersbach, who resigned in November over the affair, remains a member of the executive committee of football's governing body.

Niersbach would lose his positions in both FIFA and European body UEFA's executive if any suspension were to be imposed.

However, dpa has been told that the conduct of other officials could also be scrutinized by the ethics committee.

In its report Friday, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer could not rule out whether a payment by the DFB to FIFA - repaying money which is believed to have landed in an account in Qatar - was used to buy votes in connection with the awarding of the 2006 World Cup to Germany.

However, the law firm said there was no direct evidence of vote-buying in connection with the award of the World Cup to Germany.

The investigation focused on a number of payments, including 6.7 million euros (7.3 million dollars) from German tournament organizers to FIFA and transactions involving an account of German football icon Franz Beckenbauer, who was president of Germany's 2006 World Cup organizing committee.

According to the report, some 10 million Swiss francs (6 million dollars) were transferred in 2002 via the account of a Swiss law firm to a company in Qatar owned by former FIFA executive Mohammed Bin Hammam, who was banned from football in 2011 for life.

Freshfields said six million francs of the payments had initially been transferred to the Swiss law firm from an account of Beckenbauer and his late manager Robert Schwan.

"I only found out last Wednesday that the money went to Qatar," Beckenbauer told the "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper, denying any previous knowledge of the allegations while admitting "perhaps mistakes had been made" in retrospect.

"Robert did everything for me - from changing the light bulb to important contracts," added Beckenbauer, 70.

Another 4 million francs were transferred to the Qatari firm following a loan of 10 million Swiss francs from late former Adidas boss Robert Louis-Dreyfus, Freshfields said.

There have been suggestions the money was paid to secure Asian votes for Germany as hosts, but also that the money could have been used to finance Joseph Blatter's reelection as FIFA president in 2002.

In 2005, the DFB paid 6.7 million euros to FIFA which was declared as a payment for a World Cup cultural event which never took place. This was transferred by FIFA to Louis-Dreyfus' account the same day.

The report said there was no proof that Niersbach knew of the case before the summer of 2015.

Beckenbauer said the payments from FIFA were a financial grant because the German organizing committee needed money urgently.

"Otherwise we would have had no World Cup in Germany," said Beckenbauer.

Former German interior minister Otto Schily told Deutschlandfunk Saturday he could not deny that Beckenbauer had "acted recklessly in economic matters" but had perhaps depended on "advisers such as Herr Schwan."

Schily, who as interior minister was on the supervisory board of the World Cup organizing committee, said Beckenbauer's contribution to the 2006 World Cup would not be diminished by the affair.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meanwhile called for more transparency in football following corruption investigations which have affected the sport's administration.

Merkel said in her weekly podcast she hoped "in the world of football, also at FIFA, real transparency occurs."

Sport is "inextricably linked to fairness and when this is not reflected in the relevant organizations it will eventually lead to disappointment and damage sport overall," she said.

Gianni Infantino was elected as FIFA's new president last month and has vowed to clean up football's image after a slew of corruption scandals including the downfall of predecessor Blatter.

Last update: Thu, 23/06/2016 - 18:24
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