Did Germany Send RPGs to Saudi Arabia in Order to Win the World Cup?
The genius behind much of the corruption that has enabled the criminal racket known as FIFA to become so extraordinarily powerful in global sports lies in the often obscure nature of the bribes paid to its executives. Favors are traded, deals are made, but rarely are they sufficiently explicit to be labeled as outright corruption. Now, a new report in the German press adds a potentially sordid new dimension to that horse-trading: Germany allegedly provided RPGs to Saudi Arabia in order to secure its support for the country’s 2006 World Cup bid.
According to an explosive, if vague, account in the Die Zeit newspaper, German companies made a series of investments in Asia that helped win the support of FIFA executives from the region. These investments allegedly included moves by pharmaceutical giant Bayer and carmaker Volkswagen in Thailand and South Korea. Daimler, the carmaker, reportedly pumped money into Hyundai in order to boost the bid. A son of Hyundai’s founder sat on the FIFA executive board at the time, Die Zeitreports.
Moreover, Die Zeit alleges that the government of Gerhard Schroder lifted a short-term arms embargo in order to provide RPGs to Saudi Arabia in another bid to win votes.
Germany won the tournament by an extraordinarily tight vote — 12 to 11 — and that ballot has long been dogged by allegations of corruption. One voting member recused himself from that vote, sparing former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter from casting the tie-breaking vote, which has been widely said would have gone to South Africa. The FIFA executive who recused himself, the now deceased Charles Dempsey, later described “intolerable pressure” and attempts to bribe him during the bid process for the 2006 tournament.
Wolfgang Niersbach, the head of the German Football Association, on Fridaydenied the allegations of corruption: “We have absolutely nothing to reproach ourselves for. Let me remind you that we did absolutely the best job.”
Indeed, in the crooked organization Blatter was running, trading weapons and investments for soccer tournaments seems like an extreme — but depressingly plausible — example of the way business was done.