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Mar 13, 2014

Hoeness found guilty in tax evasion trial

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness was found guilty on Thursday and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for evading millions of euros in tax through an undeclared Swiss bank account.

Hoeness' trial has been the focus of media scrutiny in Germany.
Hoeness' trial has dominated the German media.
Schaaf: Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hoeness

Hoeness' lawyers later announced that they plan to launch an appeal to Germany's Federal Court of Justice. They have seven days in which to do so.

The 62-year-old Hoeness, one of the most powerful figures in German football, was originally charged with not paying 3.5 million euros ($4.85 million) in taxes on money held in a Swiss bank account, but when his trial opened on Monday he admitted avoiding an additional 15 million euros.

It subsequently emerged through an examination of documents Hoeness provided to investigators shortly before the trial that he owed 27.2 million euros in total -- a figure he did not dispute.

In closing arguments on Thursday, prosecutor Achim von Engel recommended a five-and-a-half-year jail sentence, saying his confession had fallen short of full disclosure.

Hoeness' lawyers later announced that they plan to launch an appeal to Germany's Federal Court of Justice.

"It is decisive how a slightly failed voluntary disclosure is treated," Hoeness' lawyer Hanns Feigen said.

The Munich court has upheld the warrant issued against Hoeness, but he remains a free man for now, pending his appeal. For the verdict, Judge Rupert Heindl and the court also took Hoeness' voluntary disclosure and his previous conduct and career into account.

As a player, Hoeness was part of the West Germany side which won the 1972 European Championship and the World Cup two years later, and was also a member of the Bayern squad which won three consecutive European Cups between 1974 and 1976. 

On Tuesday, he had been at Bayern's Allianz Arena to watch the European champions' 1-1 draw with Arsenal in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, although that result was enough to see them progress through to the quarterfinals 3-1 on aggregate.

Several prominent figures in German politics had demanded earlier in the week that Hoeness should resign from his position at Bayern, whatever the verdict, and after he was pronounced guilty they were quick to react.

"Who cheats, sits" said Sarah Wagenknecht, deputy leader of the left wing opposition party Die Linke, referencing the recent "who cheats is out" Christian Social Union campaign against illegal immigrants. The CSU in Bavaria is a conservative party of which Uli Hoeness is a member.

Claudia Roth, vice-president of the German parliament and member of the opposition Green Party, said that it was "right verdict."

"Even an Uli Hoeness has to pay taxes" Roth said. "It astounds me how a private person can make use of such sums of money."

The deputy chief of the governing SPD party, Ralf Stegner, was also pleased with the outcome.

"The verdict from Munich seems fair because it is about a major crime against the commonwealth and the deed is not disputed," he said. 

Figures in German football were more circumspect in their reaction to the verdict.

Wolfgang Niersbach, president  of the German Football Federation (DFB) said: "The dimension of the whole process, and how it was made public over the past few days, has also surprised us at the DFB.

"But the legal review can only be done by courts and equal rights have to be applied for Uli Hoeness."

Frankfurt CEO Heribert Bruchhagen told Sport 1: "I am just sad and I feel infinitely bad for Uli."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report

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