Did Germany ‘Buy’ Rights To Host FIFA 2006 With Bizarre Bribes That Involved Former Chairman Of Adidas?

Germany is suspected to have doled out bribes to host the FIFA World Cup 2006. The bribes, to the tune of $6 million were allegedly arranged by the then chairman of Adidas Robert Louis-Dreyfus.

The German Football Association (DFB) is suspected of giving out bribes to about 4 of the 24 voters who decide where the FIFA World Cup takes place. According to the German news magazine Der Spiegel, Germany’s successful bid to host the FIFA tournament in 2006 was the result of multi-million dollar secret slush fund that was established with the sole purpose of securing votes by giving out bribes.

The magazine claims the slush fund was secretly filled by then Adidas CEO Robert Louis-Dreyfus to the tune of 10.3 million Swiss francs or 13 million deutsche marks, which translates to roughly $6 million USD. As expected, Germany has strongly denied the claims about any payment made to FIFA in 2005 as part of a slush fund organized to secure votes for the 2006 World Cup, reports Bleacher Report.

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FIFA has launched an internal investigation into the alleged bribery scandal, even as it is involved in determining any irregularities in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding processes.

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According to the report, Robert Louis-Dreyfus operated the $6 million (10.3 million Swiss francs) fund in a private capacity. Unfortunately, Louis-Dreyfus died in 2009 and there is no way to corroborate this information. However, circumstantial evidence which can be traced to strange and inexplicable events surrounding the FIFA World Cup and related events could indicate a tell-tale trial of money meant for bribes.

The alleged bribe money and the slush fund meant for FIFA 2006 never appeared on the budget of either the committee who organized the bid or the committee that organized the World Cup. However, the money was allegedly used to secure the cooperation and subsequent votes of four representatives on the FIFA’s 24-member executive committee. The voting for the 2006 FIFA World Cup took place in 2000 and was filled with surprises, including Germany winning by a single vote and that, too, was after an abstention in the final round.

Though it is yet to corroborated, the report claims that high ranking officials, including Franz Beckenbauer, who headed the bidding committee back then, and Wolfgang Niersbach, the current head of the German Football Federation (DFB), were well aware of the secret slush fund, if not immediately, but before the tournament and apparently remained completely silent on the matter.

Acting alone, Louis-Dreyfus lent the bribe money to the German bidding committee prior to the decision to award the World Cup to Germany on July 6, 2000. Subsequently, Germany famously won the bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2006 from the supposedly democratic voting process conducted by the Organizing Committee (OK). Interestingly, since this was a “loan”, Louis-Dreyfus was quite interested in regaining the money lent to Germany and hence he allegedly “called it back”, a year and half before the tournament was supposed to take place. The loan had by then accrued some interest and the final amount was about 6.7 million euros, reported Yahoo.

Looking for a way to pay back Louis-Dreyfus, officials at OK, of which Beckenbauer had become president and Niersbach vice president, came up with an ingenious plan that wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows.

Documents indicate a meticulous cover was orchestrated to pay back the slush-money loan, in connivance with global football organizing body FIFA. The Germans made a contribution that was exactly equal to the amount to be repaid, 6.7 million euros, to organize a gala FIFA Opening Ceremony at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. However, no such ceremony occurred as it was carefully cancelled, but the money never returned to Germany. Instead, the money that had been paid into a FIFA bank account in Geneva was allegedly moved to a Zurich account belonging to Louis-Dreyfus.

Though investigations are pending, the irregularities and claims of corruption in FIFA have been rising for the past few years. With Germany’s World Cup 2006 bribery scandal, FIFA has one more to deal with.

[Photo by Christian Fischer/Bongarts/Getty Images]