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Probe ordered by German FA can't rule out 2006 World Cup vote-buying

An independent law firm's probe into corruption allegations against Germany's 2006 World Cup organisers has found no proof that votes were bought, but said it cannot be ruled out completely.

International law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which carried out the investigation from the German FA (DFB), published a 380-page report detailing the movement of funds from account to account.

However, a lack of evidence -- some of which Freshfields said appeared to have been mislaid or destroyed -- meant the investigation was ultimately inconclusive.

"We cannot prove that votes were bought, but we cannot rule this out either," the report said.

The report says a payment of €6.7 million ($7.3m) made by the DFB to FIFA on April 27, 2005, was "falsely declared" by the World Cup organising committee for an opening gala and that the money had been intended for former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus.

FIFA transferred the money to a Swiss account set up by the late Louis-Dreyfus that same day and former FIFA president Sepp Blatter was aware of the payment, Freshfields said in its report.

The report, presented at the news conference, also reveals previously unknown money transfers between Franz Beckenbauer and a law firm in Switzerland. It says the money was then transferred to a company in Qatar, belonging to disgraced former FIFA official Mohamed Bin Hammam.

Bin Hammam has denied receiving the money, according to the report.

Freshfields said it encountered several "hurdles" in conducting its probe, including missing electronic information, deleted emails, files that weren't accessible and people who declined to talk with its investigators, including Blatter, who with his solicitor used his FIFA suspension as a motive to decline.

Former FIFA executive committee members were also among a "group of people who we would have liked to have spoken to, but who were unavailable for comment," said the report.

"Because of these restrictions, we cannot present a conclusive picture today," Freshfields said.

FIFA on Friday said via a statement that it welcomed the report by the DFB.

"FIFA will review the report carefully and factor the findings into its ongoing internal investigation of this matter," the statement said. "FIFA shared information with the DFB to assist with its investigation and, in turn, received information from the DFB that is helpful to FIFA's own investigation. However, many questions still remain to be answered.

"FIFA's investigation has been hampered by the fact that key witnesses were not willing to answer questions or provide documents. FIFA maintains its victim status in all investigations and continues to cooperate with the Swiss and German authorities, who are in the best position to obtain all of the information necessary to understanding the facts of this matter."

New FIFA president Gianni Infantino, speaking in Cardiff on Friday evening ahead of Saturday's International Football Association Board annual general meeting, said: "FIFA has issued a release this morning. I haven't read it myself. There are investigations going on and this report will be fed into the investigations.

"It is important to get as much clarity and transparency on everything which has happened in the past in order to build a new future. I am focusing on the future."

The DFB has been in turmoil since October, when Der Spiegel published allegations that the tournament organisers used a slush fund to buy Asian votes ahead of the successful bid to land the 2006 World Cup, which was celebrated in Germany as the "summer fairytale."

Wolfgang Niersbach stepped down as federation president in November after a bungled attempt to explain the €6.7m payment to FIFA that became known shortly after affair broke out.

Information from the Press Association and Associated Press was used in this report.