Berlin: Germany's winning bid for the 2006 World Cup was aided by bribes paid to FIFA executive committee members, the German newsweekly Der Spiegel reported today.
Spiegel said the German bidding committee set up a slush fund of 10.3 million Swiss francs (about 16 million at that time) that was contributed in a private capacity by former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus.
The money was used to secure the votes of four Asian representatives on FIFA's 24-member executive committee before the tournament was awarded to Germany on July 6, 2000, the magazine said.
The Asian members joined European representatives in voting for Germany, which won 12-11 after Charles Dempsey of New Zealand abstained from the vote.
Of the three Asian representatives still living, Spiegel only identified Chung Moon-joon of South Korea, who was quoted as telling the magazine that "the questions were unworthy of a response."
Spiegel said that both Franz Beckenbauer, the former Germany great who headed the bidding committee, and Wolfgang Niersbach, the current president of the German football federation (DFB), as well as other high-ranking football officials were aware of the slush fund by 2005 at the latest.
Louis-Dreyfus' loan payment was reportedly kept secret -- it did not appear in the bidding committee's budget, nor later in the budget of the World Cup organizing committee.
Spiegel said Louis-Dreyfus asked for the money back a year-and-a-half before the tournament began. By then it was worth 6.7 million euros. Beckenbauer, by then the president of the organizing committee, and Niersbach, the vice president, "began looking for a way in 2005 to pay back the illicit funds in an inconspicuous manner," the magazine said.
Spiegel reported that a cover was created with the help of FIFA and that 6.7 million euros was transferred to world soccer's governing body as a contribution to an opening ceremony gala that was later canceled.
"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," Spiegel reported.
Earlier Friday, the DFB said it was investigating whether a 6.7 million euro payment made by its World Cup organizing committee to FIFA in April 2005 for a "cultural program" had been misused.
"As part of its audits the DFB found no evidence of irregularities. Nor was there any evidence delegates' votes were purchased as part of the application process," the DFB said in a statement.
Spokeswoman Pamela Mueller-Niese told The Associated Press that the German Interior Ministry had "no knowledge" of the matter.