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FIFA to probe 'serious allegations' Germany used bribes to secure 2006 World Cup

FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2004 file photo Sepp Blatter, President of the FIFA, left, shakes hands with the President of the Venezuelan Soccer Federation, Rafael Esquivel, in Caracas, Venezuela. Switzerlandâs justice ministry granted a U.S. request to extradite Venezuelan football official Rafael Esquivel in a FIFA bribery investigation. Esquivel is âaccused of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars in connection with the sale of marketing rights to the Copa America tournaments in 2007, 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2023,â the Swiss ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015.  (AP Photo/Leslie Mazoch)

FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2004 file photo Sepp Blatter, President of the FIFA, left, shakes hands with the President of the Venezuelan Soccer Federation, Rafael Esquivel, in Caracas, Venezuela. Switzerlandâs justice ministry granted a U.S. request to extradite Venezuelan football official Rafael Esquivel in a FIFA bribery investigation. Esquivel is âaccused of receiving bribes worth millions of dollars in connection with the sale of marketing rights to the Copa America tournaments in 2007, 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2023,â the Swiss ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Leslie Mazoch)  (AP2004)

FIFA says allegations that Germany used bribes to secure the 2006 World Cup are "serious" and will be reviewed as part of its ongoing investigation into corruption in soccer.

German newsweekly Der Spiegel reported Friday that the bidding committee set up a slush fund of 10.3 million Swiss francs (about $6 million at that time) that was contributed in a private capacity by former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus.

The money was used to secure four votes from FIFA's 24-member executive committee before Germany won the bid vote in 2000, the report said.

The Asian members joined European representatives in voting for Germany, which won 12-11 after Charles Dempsey of New Zealand abstained from the vote.

Of the three Asian representatives still living, Spiegel only identified Chung Moon-joon of South Korea, who was quoted as telling the magazine that "the questions were unworthy of a response."

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Spiegel said that both Franz Beckenbauer, the former Germany great who headed the bidding committee, and Wolfgang Niersbach, the current president of the German football federation (DFB), as well as other high-ranking football officials were aware of the slush fund by 2005 at the latest.

Louis-Dreyfus' loan payment was reportedly kept secret — it did not appear in the bidding committee's budget, nor later in the budget of the World Cup organizing committee.

Spiegel said Louis-Dreyfus asked for the money back a year-and-a-half before the tournament began. By then it was worth 6.7 million euros. Beckenbauer, by then the president of the organizing committee, and Niersbach, the vice president, "began looking for a way in 2005 to pay back the illicit funds in an inconspicuous manner," the magazine said.

Spiegel reported that a cover was created with the help of FIFA and that 6.7 million euros was transferred to world soccer's governing body as a contribution to an opening ceremony gala that was later canceled.

"The money had been paid into a FIFA bank account in Geneva. From there, FIFA allegedly promptly transferred the money to a Zurich account belonging to Louis-Dreyfus," Spiegel reported.

The German football federation is denying the allegations. DFB says news magazine Der Spiegel's report is "completely baseless." The federation says it "refutes the authors' conclusions, made without any facts, that votes were bought in this context for the awarding of the World Cup" and "that neither the DFB president nor the other members of the organizing committee were involved or could have known about such operations."

The DFB said it "reserves the right" to take legal action against Der Spiegel.

FIFA said these "are very serious allegations" that "will be reviewed as part of the independent internal investigation currently being conducted by FIFA under the direction of its legal director with the assistance of outside counsel."

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