Munich: A German court convicted Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness of tax evasion on Thursday 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 has admitted evading 27.2 million euros in taxes on income earned in secret Swiss bank accounts, but 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. 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 to the Federal Court of Justice. “The high court will decide if his voluntary disclosure was valid, or partially valid or botched,” said lawyer Hanns Feigen. “That’s the interesting point. The key point is the way a taxpayer is being treated – as if he hadn’t turned himself in.”
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 sentence.
Hoeness was first charged with evading 3.5 million euros in taxes. But when the trial began on Monday he stunned the court by admitting he had actually evaded five times that amount – or 18.5 million euros.
That figure was raised further to 27.2 million euros on the second day of the trial based on testimony by a tax inspector. Hoeness’s defence team acknowledged the higher figure.