- Associated Press - Thursday, March 3, 2016

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) - A highly anticipated independent report to be released Friday could throw light into corruption allegations against Germany’s 2006 World Cup organizers and the fate of a dubious payment to FIFA.

The German soccer federation has been in turmoil since October, when the der Spiegel weekly published allegations that the tournament organizers 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.”

But the report from an independent law firm could prove to be a nightmare for some of the country’s best known soccer personalities, including Franz Beckenbauer.

Faced with the allegations, the German federation hired Freshfield to investigate the affair and the law firm is releasing its report on Friday.

Wolfgang Niersbach stepped down as federation president in November after a bungled attempt to explain a 6.7 million euro ($7.27 million) payment to FIFA that became known shortly after affair broke out.

The federation calls itself the biggest sports federation in the world, with nearly seven million members. It has been deeply embarrassed by the affair and could be hit even worse, depending on the report.

Niersbach and several other former top officials are already under a criminal probe.

Here are some of the major issues expected to be addressed by the report:

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BECKENBAUER’S ROLE

The German great’s reputation already has been tarnished by the affair and the report could place Beckenbauer under more pressure. Beckenbauer was the chief of the bid and later the president of the organizing committee. Beckenbauer has been questioned by the law firm, but has kept a low profile. In a rare interview, he conceded signing off on a bunch of documents without really bothering to look at them in detail.

Beckenbauer’s signature is on a promissory note about the 6.7 million euro payment that apparently went to FIFA’s financial commission, reportedly in return for a financial grant to the World Cup organizing committee. The money was reportedly provided by Robert Louis-Dreyfus, the now late Adidas head. The federation repaid the loan but masked its true purpose, according to previous media reports.

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THE PAYMENT

The 6.7 million euros is at the center of the affair and raises many questions: when was it made, why, who knew about it and when. The purpose of the payment remains unclear. One theory is that it might have been used to finance Sepp Blatter’s election campaign. Another is that it was used to pay retroactively those who gave Germany their vote for the 2006 World Cup.

Blatter, the former FIFA president who has been suspended for six years, has denied any knowledge of the payment.

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WHO IS INVESTIGATING

Apart from Freshfield lawyers, Frankfurt prosecutors are conducting a tax evasion probe targeting Niersbach, his predecessor Theo Zwanziger and another former federation official. Their offices have been searched and documents seized but few details of the probe have been revealed.

The Frankfurt prosecutors have asked their Swiss colleagues for legal help and they are also investigating.

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WARNER CONTRACT

Four days before the vote in 2000 to pick the host of the 2006 tournament, Beckenbauer signed a draft deal with Jack Warner, promising his 1,000 top-class World Cup tickets and other favors. The purpose of the deal is unclear and it apparently was never implemented. Warner, from Trinidad and Tobago, was then a FIFA vice president. He also has been suspended for life.

Reinhard Rauball and Rainer Koch, the two acting German federation presidents, have branded the draft contract a bribery attempt.

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