News 4th March 2016

No evidence 2006 World Cup was bought, conclude Freshfields

No evidence was found that the German football association (DFB) bought votes during its successful campaign to host the 2006 FIFA World Cup, concluded a 361-page report compiled by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and published today. ‘We found no evidence of vote buying, but we cannot rule it out’, reads the report. ‘Based on our investigation, it is clear that the payment of €6.7 million in 2005 was deliberately falsely declared by the World Cup organising committee. It was registered as an amount in connection to the FIFA opening ceremony, but intended for Robert Louis-Dreyfus.’

The legal firm was commissioned by the DFB to investigate allegations that a €6.7 million ‘slush fund’ was created with money from then-Adidas CEO Robert Louis-Dreyfus. It has been alleged that the DFB fabricated an equivalent payment to FIFA in 2005 in order to return the money to Louis-Dreyfus. German sportswear manufacturer Adidas was a FIFA partner for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

The report found that the €6.7 million payment was a loan agreed by Louis-Dreyfus in 2002, ruling out the possibility that it was used to buy Executive Committee votes for the 2006 World Cup, as the vote was held in 2000. Whether the payment was used to help secure a larger FIFA funding grant to the World Cup organising committee, or whether there was a further ‘underlying purpose’ should ‘remain open’, read the report.

Earlier this month, it was reported that the DFB had launched legal proceedings against staff for agreeing the €6.7 million payment. However, it argued that this was a precautionary measure to prevent any statutes of limitations preventing any future legal action on the payment, as it dates back to 2002.

Once the €6.7 million was paid by the DFB to FIFA, it was transferred to Louis-Dreyfus’ Swiss bank account the same day, the report found. However, payments were also made between this account and that of Franz Beckenbauer, who was head of the World Cup organising committee at that time, the report found.

It also found that payments were diverted through an account in Qatar connected to Mohammed bin Hammam, Kemco Scaffolding Co. Hammam, a former FIFA Executive Committee member, was banned by FIFA for life in 2012 for paying national associations in connection to his 2011 FIFA Presidential election campaign and in connection to the 2010 voting process to appoint the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Bin Hammam has denied receiving the payments, said the report.

Freshfields’ investigation began in October last year, after DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach commissioned it to investigate the €6.7 million payment, ruling out that it was connected to the awarding of the 2006 FIFA World Cup hosting rights to Germany in 2000. The investigation involved 42 lawyers, 26 interviews, 740 physical files, 128,000 emails and electronic documents and 280 ‘relevant documents’.

Freshfields said it encountered hurdles including missing electronic information, deleted emails, files that weren’t accessible and people who declined to talk with investigators, including former FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. “Because of these restrictions, we cannot present a conclusive picture today”, Freshfields said.

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