Monday 18 November 2019

World Cup winner in €27m tax fraud gets jail term

Uli Hoeness
Uli Hoeness

Jens Hack in Munich

A court convicted Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness of tax evasion and sentenced the man who turned the soccer club into one of the world's most successful sports dynasties to three-and-a-half years in jail.

Judge Rupert Heindl ruled that Hoeness's voluntary disclosure that he had failed to pay taxes had been incomplete and thus did not meet a vital requirement needed for amnesty under laws designed to encourage tax evaders to come clean.

Hoeness, pictured, has admitted evading €27.2m in taxes on income earned in secret Swiss bank accounts.

The soccer club executive was hoping for leniency in one of the most closely watched tax evasion cases in German history.

"The voluntary disclosure is not valid with the documents that were presented alone," said the judge yesterday.

He said the confession was riddled with mistakes and that Hoeness had failed to submit other documents requested by tax inspectors on time.

The 62-year-old Hoeness, who also owns a Bavarian sausage factory, bowed his head and stared at the floor when the verdict was delivered, his face turning red as he struggled to retain his composure. He left the court in silence, avoiding reporters.

The case hinged on the question of whether Hoeness, who as a player helped West Germany win the 1974 World Cup, co-operated fully with his voluntary disclosure.

His case shocked the nation and prompted thousands of tax dodgers to turn themselves in.

Hoeness's defence lawyers immediately announced they would appeal.

The maximum sentence for tax evasion is 10 years and the prosecutors, citing Hoeness's co-operation, had sought a five-and-a-half year term.

Hoeness was first charged with evading €3.5m in taxes. But when the trial began on Monday he stunned the court by admitting he had actually evaded five times that amount – or €18.5m.

LENIENCY

That figure was raised further to €27.2m, based on testimony by a tax inspector.

Hoeness, whose team won last year's Champions League and dominates the German Bundesliga, apologised to the court and pleaded for leniency.

The club's earnings have soared under his stewardship, which has lasted 35 years in various posts.

With more than 220,000 members, it is one of the world's biggest soccer clubs.

"I deeply regret my wrongdoing," he said on Monday. "I'm doing everything I can to put this unhappy chapter behind me."

Irish Independent

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