The FIFA ethics committee has started a probe against six men led by football icon Franz Beckenbauer in connection with the awarding of the 2006 World Cup to Germany.

A statement Tuesday said the investigatory chamber is probing the bid and organizing committee chief Beckenbauer, former German football federation (DFB) presidents Wolfgang Niersbach and Theo Zwanziger, and three other former high-ranking DFB officials: Horst R Schmidt, Stefan Hans and Helmut Sandrock.

FIFA said it is investigating "in the context of the 2006 World Cup host selection and its associated funding" after studying the final report of external law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer which was published on March 4.

The allegations include violations of FIFA articles on bribery and corrution, conflict of interest and duty of disclosure.

The Freshfields reports said it found no evidence of vote-buying when Germany was awarded the tournament in 2000, 12-11 over South Africa in a vote by the FIFA executive committee.

But it revealed unclear payments, including from an account held by Beckenbauer.

The probe centred on a payment of 6.7 million euros (7.3 million dollars) from German tournament organizers via FIFA to Louis-Dreyfus in 2005. The money was deliberately declared as a payment for a World Cup cultural event which never took place, according to Freshfield.

"In the cases of Messrs Niersbach and Sandrock, the investigatory chamber will investigate a possible failure to report a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics, which could constitute a breach of art. 13 (General rules of conduct), art. 15 (Loyalty), art. 18 (Duty of disclosure, cooperating and reporting) and art. 19 (Conflicts of interest) of the FCE.

"In the cases of Mr Beckenbauer, Dr Zwanziger, Mr Schmidt and Mr Hans, the investigatory chamber will investigate possible undue payments and contracts to gain an advantage in the 2006 World Cup host selection and the associated funding, which could constitute a breach of arts 13, 15, 18 and 19 as well as art. 20 (Offering and accepting gifts and other benefits) and art. 21 (Bribery and corruption) of the FIFA Code of Ethics."

Niersbach, in an e-mail Tuesday to dpa, pledged "to cooperate in every aspect" of the probe by the FIFA ethics committee which he fully trusts.

Beckenbauer is a former FIFA executive and received a warning and fine last month for not cooperating with an ethics committee probe on the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Niersbach resigned as DFB president in November over the affair but remains on the executive committees of FIFA and the European body UEFA.

Niersbach, Zwanziger and Schmidt are also under investigation by German authorities on suspicion of tax evasion in connection with the affair; and Swiss authorities are probing as well as part of a wide-ranging investigation into FIFA.

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