A German court sentenced football legend Uli Hoeness, president of Bundesliga club Bayern Munich, to three and a half years in jail on Thursday for evading millions in taxes.
"In the name of the people, Mr Ulrich Hoeness is sentenced for seven serious counts of tax evasion to a prison term of three years and six months," Judge Rupert Heindl told the Munich courtroom.
Hoeness has one week to decide whether to appeal the verdict and was allowed to leave the court.
Hoeness, 62, had admitted to avoiding €27.2 million ($37.6 million) in taxes by hiding funds in Swiss bank accounts while obsessively "gambling" on stocks and currencies for years.
His defence lawyers had argued that he should escape punishment or receive a suspended term because he turned himself in to authorities in January of last year.
But the judge ruled that Hoeness's voluntary disclosure was incomplete and thus did not meet the requirements for an amnesty under German tax laws designed to encourage tax evaders to come clean.
"The voluntary disclosure is not valid with the documents that were presented alone," the judge said.
When he entered the dock on Monday, Hoeness confessed to large-scale tax fraud worth €18.5 million, almost five times more than prosecutors had calculated.
His pledge of full disclosure was, however, contradicted the next day by a tax officer who testified that Hoeness had cheated the state out of up to €27.2 million, almost €9 million more than he admitted.
Hoeness was expected to step down as club president and chairman of its supervisory board, but so far he has stayed on.
He also runs a lucrative sausage business and has been a regular on conservative TV talk shows.
The German public has taken a huge interest in the case, with newspapers giving it front-page treatment and people lining up outside the courtroom from early morning on Thursday to get a seat in the visitors' gallery ahead of the verdict.
Hoeness first turned himself in and paid €10 million in back taxes on January 17 of last year, when tax investigators – and journalists – were already pursuing his case.
Police raided his lakeside villa and briefly arrested him in March that year before releasing him on €5 million bail.
While still a football player, Hoeness helped West Germany win the 1974 World Cup.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-03-13