BERLIN (Reuters) - Frankfurt’s state prosecutor will look into bribery allegations concerning the 2006 soccer World Cup after a magazine report suggested a slush fund had been used to buy votes for the German bid in 2000, an official said on Monday.
Der Spiegel magazine reported on Friday that Germany’s bid committee had tapped into a slush fund of 6.7 million euros to buy votes at world soccer’s governing body FIFA.
“We have initiated a monitoring process,” said Nadja Niesen, spokeswoman for the Frankfurt state prosecutor’s office.
The monitoring process is not a formal investigation and will determine whether such a step will be necessary.
Der Spiegel reported the slush fund had been set up with 6.7 million euros (5 million pounds) loaned by the late Adidas CEO Robert Louis-Dreyfus for Germany’s World Cup bid committee to pay bribes to FIFA officials in order to help land the tournament for Germany.
It said those aware of the slush fund had included Franz Beckenbauer, head of the 2006 organising committee, and Wolfgang Niersbach, the current president of the German Football Association (DFB), who was a vice president of the committee.
Niersbach, Beckenbauer and the DFB have vehemently rejected the allegations as ‘groundless’ and have said the magazine had provided no evidence to back up its claims.
The 2006 tournament is fondly remembered by Germans as a ‘summer fairy tale’ because of the feel-good atmosphere across the country it created, with millions of fans on the streets celebrating daily.
“The summer fairy tale is not destroyed because I am saying here again: there were no slush funds, there was no vote purchase,” Niersbach told reporters on Monday.
“We entered the competition with legal means and we won it with legal means in Zurich on July 6 2000 for us, for Germany, for German soccer,” he said speaking at an event in Dortmund for a newly-constructed German football museum.
The DFB has said its own investigation had found no wrongdoing in the 2006 World Cup process, but was investigating a payment of 6.7 million euros ($7.6 million) from the committee to FIFA for a cultural programme and whether it was used as intended.
“This money transfer from our organising committee to FIFA is currently being investigated internally by the control committee in charge. We also asked a renowned international commercial law firm to investigate,” Niersbach said.
FIFA was plunged into the biggest crisis of its 111-year history in May, when 14 soccer officials and sports marketing executives were indicted in the United States on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges involving more than $150 million in payments.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Gareth Jones