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By ESPN Staff
Feb 6, 2007

Hiddink could face jail over tax fraud charges

AMSTERDAM, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Dutch prosecutors called on Tuesday for a 10-month jail sentence for Russia's national soccer coach Guus Hiddink on tax fraud charges, a Dutch court said in a statement.

Prosecutors say Dutchman Hiddink evaded almost €1.4 million in Dutch taxes while falsely claiming he was a resident of Belgium in 2002 and 2003.

From 2000 to 2002 Hiddink was employed as the national coach of the South Korean national team, guiding the co-hosts to the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup tournament.

A prosecutor said Hiddink, who is on trial alongside his tax advisor for whom prosecutors are seeking a 13-month sentence, had instead stayed at his girlfriend's home in Amsterdam. He called calling Hiddink's Belgium residence a 'joke'.

He went on to describe Hiddink as a stubborn man who had ignored the advice of his accountant to at least spend the occasional night in Belgium, according to the Dutch news agency ANP.

'Hiddink has fallen from a high pedestal,' he added.

Hiddink admitted that he had not spent a single night at his Belgian residence at the trial's opening in late January, describing himself as a sort of soccer 'nomad', according to the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.

'I never felt comfortable there and no desire to lie there staring at the ceiling,' Hiddink said.

He said he had instead slept all over the place - in hotels, at his girlfriend's home, at the training ground of PSV Eindhoven, whom he was also coaching at the time, and sometimes even behind the wheel of his car.

The Russia coach said his income from coaching South Korea had already been taxed in Asia and he has acknowledged he chose Belgium as his official residence for taxation purposes.

In Moscow, Russian Football Union president Vitaly Mutko said he was not too concerned about the case.

'I don't think it'll get to a jail sentence,' Mutko, the man responsible of luring Hiddink to Moscow, said.

'We live in a civilised world, not in medieval times. Holland is a European country, so I don't think they will go to the extreme.

'Besides, this is just a prosecutor's demand. Let's wait and see what the judges will actually make of it.'

Hiddink is currently in the Netherlands where his Russia team face the Dutch in an international friendly in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

Prosecutors began legal proceedings against Hiddink last July. A verdict is due on February 27.