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Mar 10, 2014

Hoeness tells court: 'I evaded taxes'

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness admitted on Monday to evading millions of euros in taxes through an undeclared Swiss bank account at a trial that could send him to prison.

Hoeness' trial has been the focus of media scrutiny in Germany.
Hoeness' trial has been the focus of media scrutiny in Germany.

Prosecutor Achim von Engel told the Munich state court that Hoeness evaded 3.5 million euros ($4.9 million) in taxes by concealing 33 million euros income in the Swiss bank account, the dpa news agency reported.

Hoeness reported himself to authorities in early 2013, and part of trial will be to determine whether he did that because he had become aware there was an investigation against him or for other reasons, which will affect the sentence he receives.

If found guilty he faces anything from a fine to 10 years in prison. No pleas are entered in the German system. But as the trial opened, Hoeness, who also is part owner of a Nuremberg sausage factory, said he had hoped to avoid the case going to court by reporting himself to authorities.

"I evaded taxes,'' he told the court. "I'm aware that reporting myself doesn't change anything.''

Hoeness' attorney, Hanns Feigen, volunteered that his client had evaded far more than charged, saying the total figure was 18.5 million euros. Hoeness told the court he was glad that all the details were "transparently on the table.''

"I deeply regret my wrongdoing,'' he said. "I will do everything necessary to ensure that this depressing chapter for me is closed.''

Hoeness also noted that he had donated millions of euros to charities: "I'm no social parasite,'' he told the court.

Four days have been scheduled for hearings, with a verdict expected on Thursday. German authorities have been cracking down on tax-evaders in recent years, and have recovered hundreds of millions of euros. Their widely-publicized purchase of leaked account information on thousands of investors, as well as high-profile cases such as that against Hoeness and former Deutsche Post AG CEO Klaus Zumwinkel, has led to thousands of people turning themselves in.

News of the case against Hoeness, one of the most prominent figures in German football, emerged last April, prompting even Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman to weigh in and say the country's leader was disappointed in him.

As a player, Hoeness was a Bayern star who won the 1972 European Championship and the 1974 World Cup with West Germany and three straight European Cups (the predecessor of the Champions League) before retiring in 1979 with chronic knee problems.

Bayern have been enjoying unprecedented success under Hoeness' presidency. His friend Jupp Heynckes led the side to the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup wins last season, and Bayern are favourites to repeat the treble under successor Pep Guardiola, who has been breaking records this season.

Things are looking good off the field, too. Last month the club announced that insurance giant Allianz had acquired a stake alongside sporting goods maker Adidas and car manufacturer Audi for 110 million euros ($150.44 million). Each of the three partners holds an 8.33 percent stake as a result of the capital increase, with the remaining 75 percent being owned by club members.

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