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Franz Beckenbauer admits 'mistake,' says no 2006 World Cup vote buying

FRANKFURT, Germany -- Franz Beckenbauer says it was his mistake to make a payment to FIFA in return for a financial grant to Germany's 2006 World Cup organising committee.

In a brief statement published by German media late on Monday, Beckenbauer gave little details about the case that has shaken German football.

Beckenbauer, president of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee, reiterated his denial from last week that there was vote buying before Germany won the bid to stage the World Cup.

"In order to obtain a financial grant from FIFA, a proposal was accepted from FIFA's financial commission that in hindsight should have been rejected by those involved," Beckenbauer said. 

"For this mistake, I bear responsibility as the president of the then organizing committee."

Beckenbauer made no mention of the FIFA's suspended president Sepp Blatter. German football federation president Wolfgang Niersbach said last week that the financial deal was made by Beckenbauer and Blatter in a private meeting in January 2002.

Blatter had denied any knowledge of the case and FIFA also has disputed Niersbach's account.

Niersbach said the organising committee had obtained a grant of 250 million Swiss francs (about €230m at current rates) from FIFA, in return to payment of what now amounts to €6.7m.

The money was loaned by the now late French businessman Robert Louis-Dreyfus and was repaid by the German federation in 2005.

The entire transaction and its dubious circumstances have come under close scrutiny and heavy criticism in Germany and led to the calls for the resignation of Niersbach, although he has received support from the federation board.

Beckenbauer said he was questioned on Monday by a law firm hired by DFB to investigate the affair and repeated that there was no vote buying ahead of the 2000 vote on the host of the 2006 World Cup.

Spiegel said the €6.7m had been in a slush fund used to secure the votes of four Asian members of FIFA's executive committee.

"There were no votes bought to win the bid for the 2006 World Cup," Beckenbauer said.

Niersbach's predecessor as DFD, Theo Zwanziger, last week accused Niersbach of lying for denying the existence of the slush fund.

Zwanziger was also in charge of finances for the 2006 organizing committee and his role in the affair also has been questioned. Zwanziger signed off on the repayment of the loan to Louis-Dreyfus.

Zwanziger said late on Monday he was "pleased that Franz had finally said something."

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