Munich - Uli Hoeness, the president of European football champions Bayern Munich, has confessed to having evaded a total of 18.5 million euros (25.7 million dollars) in taxes - more than five times the amount he has been charged with. Defence lawyers have told the Munich court trying the German football legend that, in addition to the 3.5 million euros in taxes he is suspected of having dodged, he has failed to declare an additional 15 million euros in taxes due over the years.
“I have evaded taxes,” Hoeness told judges. “I was hoping to escape criminal prosecution with a voluntary disclosure.” “I am glad that now everything is on the table,” he said in reference to him admission, which has made waves in both the country's sporting and its political world.
Prosecutors in Munich have charged Hoeness, 62, with evading taxes on income of more than 33 million euros, which was partly gained through market trading. He has also been accused of wrongly declaring losses totalling 5.5 million euros.
If convicted, Hoeness, who was part of the West German soccer team that won the World Cup in 1974, could face a jail sentence. A year ago, he was arrested but later released on five million euros' bail.
A key part of the case will focus on Hoeness' January 2013
admission to tax authorities that he held a Swiss bank account and had undeclared income, and whether this will help him to avoid prosecution. The revelations helped to trigger a major tax evasion scandal in Germany, with a wave of people - including several public figures - stepping forward to make voluntary disclosures that they had dodged tax payments.
This coincided with European Union efforts to clamp down on tax evasion. Hoeness, who has had strong links with the Christian Social Union - the Bavarian-based associate party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, has faced widespread criticism following his admission. Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her “disappointment” with his actions.
Hoeness, who owns a sausage factory in Nuremberg, is a legendary football figure in Germany. In addition to contributing to Germany's 1974 World Cup victory, he was part of the German squad that won Euro 1972, three European cups, three Bundesliga titles and a German cup.
He was forced to retire as a player in 1979 due to knee problems.
Hoeness turned Bayern Munich into one Europe's richest clubs during his 30-year tenure as general manager, with Munich winning 16 German titles, nine German cups, a Champions League and a UEFA Cup over the course of three decades. Some of Germany's leading companies such as Adidas and Audi are represented on Munich's supervisory board. A 2010 German league and cup double plus the club's first title treble in the Champions League, Bundesliga and German in May followed with Hoeness as president.
Bayern's supervisory board rejected an offer by Hoeness in May 2013 to relinquish his post as chairman of the nine-member body until the authorities have decided on his case.