One day after Uli Hoeness, president of Bundesliga’s Bayern Munich, was handed three and a half years in prison for tax evasion, he announced that he is resigning from the football club and will not appeal his sentence.
"After discussions with my family I have decided to accept the ruling of the Munich court on my tax affairs. This befits my understanding of decency, dignity and personal responsibility. Tax evasion was the biggest mistake of my life," he wrote in a statement published on the club's website.
"Bayern Munich is my life's work and will also remain so," he said, adding that he wanted to spare the club any damage.
Judge Rupert Heindl sentenced Hoeness at a court in Munich on Thursday after finding him guilty of seven counts of tax evasion.
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 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’ decision to step down as club president and chairman of its supervisory board came as no surprise.
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, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-03-14