Exclusive Law Firm Finds No Evidence German Soccer Association Bought Votes to Host 2006 World Cup

The law firm Freshfields has been unable to find evidence that Germany’s soccer association bought votes in order to host the 2006 World Cup, but nor could it rule out corruption as many questions remained unanswered. After a four-and-a-half-month investigation, commissioned by the soccer association DFB itself, Freshfields in its final report Friday said it had found no evidence that delegates had been bribed. But the report also said it could not preclude the possibility of corruption because it was unable to follow up all leads. It cited the wealth of complex material, missing documents, and also that some witnesses were either unable or unwilling to make statements. Two witnesses have since passed away. In October, Der Spiegel magazine reported that German organizers may have bribed four FIFA delegates from Asia with €6 million to win the right to host the 2006 World Cup. The magazine reported that 10.3 million Swiss francs, roughly €6 million at the time, were provided as a secret loan from Robert Louis-Dreyfus, the chief executive at the time of Adidas, the German sports shoe maker. Adidas is also a sponsor of the DFB and FIFA. Mr. Louis-Dreyfus died in 2009. In its investigation, Freshfields found that the DFB had concealed the questionable loan of €6.7 million from Mr. Louis-Dreyfus. The sum was then transferred via a FIFA account back to Mr. Louis-Dreyfus, as payment for a “World Cup gala” that was later cancelled. The money was never recalled by DFB despite the cancellation. Freshfields said an equivalent sum seemed to have been transferred to Qatar, to an account associated with Mohamed bin Hammam, a former member of the FIFA executive committee who was found guilty of bribery and banned from soccer-related activity in 2012. Franz Beckenbauer, a former German soccer star and head of the World Cup organizational committee, also transferred a sum in the millions to the account but later received the money back, the law firm found. Following the report, FIFA, the world soccer association, said many open questions remain and that it would continue to work with the Swiss and German authorities. Rainer Koch, the interim head of the DFB, condemned the organization’s internal controls. Photo source: DPA