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Bayern Munich boss Uli Hoeness could face jail on Thursday

German football legend Uli Hoeness, head of powerhouse club Bayern Munich, faces a verdict and possible jail term Thursday after he admitted in court to having evaded millions in taxes.

sports Updated: Mar 12, 2014 19:48 IST
Uli Hoeness,Bayern Munich,financial fraud

German football legend Uli Hoeness, head of powerhouse club Bayern Munich, faces a verdict and possible jail term Thursday after he admitted in court to having evaded millions in taxes.

"If tomorrow there are no more applications to submit new evidence, then final summaries can be heard and the verdict handed down," Munich regional court spokeswoman Andrea Titz said on Wednesday.

Football-obsessed Germany has been gripped by the high-profile trial this week of Hoeness, 62, a former star player then team manager and current club president who is also a successful businessman.

The public image of the stocky, folksy Bavarian, known also as a conservative TV talk-show regular, has taken a beating since the scandal around his secret Swiss bank accounts broke early last year.

Things have taken a turn for the worse since he entered the dock on Monday, ruefully confessing to large-scale tax fraud and admitting to a years-long obsession with stocks and currency "gambling".

His vow of full disclosure was contradicted by a tax officer who testified in court on Tuesday that Hoeness had in fact cheated the state out of €27.2 million ($37.6 million).

That figure was a hefty jump from the €18.5 million Hoeness had spectacularly confessed to at the trial's opening, which was itself almost five times more than prosecutors had assumed.

The maximum punishment for major tax fraud under German law is 10 years jail, although sentences are usually shorter and can be suspended if there are mitigating circumstances.

'Last cheer?'
Sitting in court, joined by his wife Susi in the visitors gallery, Hoeness could be seen clenching his jaw and, as the damning testimony was delivered, cupping his hands over his flushed face.

On Wednesday, his lawyer Hanns Feigen confirmed the €27.2 million amount, telling the court that "the defence considers the figures accurate, we do not challenge them".

He denied that the defence had been taken by surprise by the ballooning amount, adding brusquely that "we're not stupid", while insisting his client had not withheld any evidence.

The media response to Hoeness' fiscal misdeeds and courtroom performance has been largely damning, with the Berliner Tagesspiegel daily mocking him as a "confession professional".

Top-selling Bild printed a front page picture of Hoeness, throwing up his arms Tuesday to cheer on his team against Arsenal, under the headline "Is Hoeness cheering for the last time?"

Several politicians have challenged Hoeness to quickly step down as club president and chairman of its supervisory board, while players, fans and veterans voiced continued loyalty and support.

"He is Bayern Munich personified, and that's why he belongs here," honorary club president Franz Beckenbauer told Sky TV about Hoeness attending the game and wearing the club's red-and-white fan scarf.

Beckenbauer added that "matches are won in the defence. I hope the defence will be strong enough to disprove the indictment."

Hoeness turned himself in to tax authorities and paid 10 million euros in back taxes in January last year, at a time when tax authorities and journalists were already pursuing his case.

In March, police raided his lakeside villa and briefly arrested him, then released him on five million euros bail, developments which were only reported in the media weeks later.

Hoeness has said he originally wanted to benefit from a tax deal Germany was negotiating with Switzerland, which would have guaranteed immunity for tax dodgers who come clean voluntarily.

However, the amnesty deal was torpedoed by the German centre-left political opposition of the time, which argued that wealthy tax criminals should not be let off the hook so easily.

First Published: Mar 12, 2014 19:30 IST