FRANKFURT (Reuters) - There is no evidence of vote-rigging in the awarding of the 2006 soccer World Cup to Germany, says a report into the scandal which piled more pressure on former World Cup chief Franz Beckenbauer over a payment to a disgraced ex-FIFA official.
“We have no proof of vote buying,” Christian Duve of the Freshfields law firm, commissioned by the German Football Association (DFB), told a news conference on Friday.
“Although we cannot rule it out completely.”
He said his firm had not been able to talk to everyone involved, including Sepp Blatter, the former president of world soccer’s governing body FIFA who has been suspended from football over a separate, wide-reaching corruption scandal.
Beckenbauer, Germany’s former World Cup-winning player and manager, was already under pressure to deliver answers over a 6.7 million euro ($7.34 million) payment to FIFA in 2005.
The report shows he transferred 10 million Swiss francs ($10.06 million) in 2002 via a Swiss law firm’s account to a company owned by then-FIFA official Mohamed Bin Hammam, the former president of the Asian Football Confederation who was banned from all soccer-related activity in December 2012.
The World Cup affair, which has shocked soccer-mad Germany, was triggered by the payment from the German FA (DFB) to FIFA in 2005 which the DFB said last year was the return of a loan via FIFA from former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus.
Der Spiegel magazine alleged it was used to buy votes.
Duve said the payment from the DFB had been transferred to FIFA in 2005 but was not intended for the opening ceremony gala as was indicated in documents.
“It was immediately transferred on to an account of Louis-Dreyfus,” Duve said.
Interim DFB president Rainer Koch did not know why the money had to be sent to Dreyfus via FIFA. “I still don’t understand why it had to go through FIFA,” he said.
Sports equipment maker Adidas, a long-time DFB sponsor, has said it was unaware of any such payment.
The report also identified a series of payments totaling 10 million Swiss francs from Beckenbauer via the Swiss bank account of a law firm to scaffolding company Kemco in Qatar, the owner of which was Bin Hammam.
The payments were made in 2002, some two years after Germany was awarded the 2006 tournament.
“They landed somewhere in Qatar, this (company) is under the influence of Bin Hammam. But anything beyond that is speculation. We had the task of presenting the facts,” said Duve, who added that some documents were missing from the DFB headquarters.
“You could connect the payment with the FIFA re-election of Blatter or for the 2006 (World Cup) vote but that would be pure speculation.”
Beckenbauer, who has admitted making mistakes but has denied any wrongdoing, could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Soccer’s world governing body FIFA said it welcomed the report and would incorporate the results into its own current investigation but said “many questions still remain to be answered”.
DFB’s Koch said there was a “complete failure of mechanisms at the DFB which cannot happen again”.
He blamed former DFB chief Wolfgang Niersbach, who resigned last year and faces a tax evasion probe over the payment, for not informing the DFB board in the summer of 2015.
“We will not be drawing any quick conclusions,” Koch said. “We will study this report and discuss it and we will also wait for the tax authorities’ investigation before drawing any conclusions.”
Niersbach said in a statement he understood the board’s position, adding that he was busy investigating the affair at the time but did “regret” not informing his colleagues.
“Although I have not yet had the chance to read the entire report... I am strengthened in my conviction that no votes were bought for the World Cup,” he said.
($1 = 0.9123 euros)
($1 = 0.9941 Swiss francs)
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris