FIFA's Ethics Committee has launched an investigation into how Germany secured the rights to host the 2006 World Cup as well as six senior officials associated with the bid, it has been announced today.
Franz Beckenbauer, the World Cup winning captain and coach who led the Organising Committee for the tournament, and former German Football Association (DFB) President Wolfgang Niersbach, who resigned in November but remains a member of FIFA's Executive Committee, are both part of the Ethics Committee probe.
Helmut Sandrock, former secretary general of the DFB and tournament director, Theo Zwanziger, who used to be a member of the Executive Committees of both UEFA and FIFA, ex-DFB secretary general Horst R. Schmidt and Stefan Hans, who was the chief financial officer of Germany 2006, are also being investigated.
Beckenbauer, forced to deny fresh allegations of corruption after a report into the accusations by a leading law firm uncovered suspicious payments he allegedly made to banned former FIFA vice-president Mohammed bin Hammam, is under investigation over "possible undue payments and contracts to gain an advantage in the 2006 FIFA World Cup host selection and the associated funding" along with Zwanziger, Schmidt and Hans.
Niersbach and Sandrock will be the subject of an inquiry into whether they failed to report a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics.
The announcement follows the publication of the independent report into allegations of corruption with the European nation's successful attempt to stage the tournament, commissioned by the DFB and conducted by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
The report found no clear evidence that votes were bought but also suggested the possibility cannot be ruled out due to the amount of files and documents that could not be obtained.
It came after German magazine Der Spiegel claimed in October of last year that a slush fund of €6.7 million (£5 million/$7.6 million) was set up in order to bribe members of FIFA’s ruling Executive Committee in the 2006 World Cup bid race.
The German bid defeated South Africa by a narrow margin of 12 votes to 11 back in 2000 after New Zealand's Charlie Dempsey abstaining from the second round of voting after stating there had been "intolerable pressure" prior to the ballot.
Freshfields also claimed that their investigation was hampered by the reluctance of key witnesses to cooperate, including banned former FIFA President Sepp Blatter and acting secretary general Markus Kattner.
World football’s governing body said Kattner refused to be interviewed due to the ongoing Swiss criminal investigation into allegations of widespread corruption within the organisation.
Freshfields, who looked at over 128,000 electronic documents, said some of the files they wanted to see “could not be found”, including one entitled “FIFA 2000”.
The file was taken out of the DFB archives by a colleague of Niersbach in June 2015 and has now disappeared, it is claimed.
"After examining the Freshfields report commissioned by the German Football Association (DFB), the investigatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee has decided to open formal proceedings against the following individuals in the context of the 2006 FIFA World Cup host selection and its associated funding," a FIFA Ethics Committee statement read.
"The chairman of the investigatory chamber, Dr Cornel Borbély, will lead the investigation proceedings as the chief of the investigation.
"He will examine all relevant evidence and hand over the case reports at the appropriate time, along with recommendations, to the adjudicatory chamber of the Ethics Committee."