Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness on Monday admitted to dodging millions of euros in taxes through an undeclared Swiss bank account at a trial that could see one of the most powerful figures in German soccer receive a lengthy prison sentence.
Prosecutor Achim von Engel told the Munich State Court that Hoeness evaded 3.5 million euros (US$4.9 million) in taxes by concealing 33 million euros of income in the Swiss bank account, the DPA news agency reported.
Hoeness reported himself to authorities early last year and the court will have to determine whether he did that because he had become aware there was an investigation against him or for other reasons, which will affect the sentence he receives. If found guilty, the Bayern president faces anything from a fine to 10 years in prison.
No pleas are entered in the German system, but as the trial opened, Hoeness, who also is part-owner of a Nuremberg sausage factory, said he had hoped to avoid the case going to court by reporting himself to the authorities.
“I evaded taxes,” he told the court. “I’m aware that reporting myself doesn’t change this fact.”
Hoeness’ lawyer, Hanns Feigen, volunteered that his client had evaded far more than charged, saying the total was 18.5 million euros.
Hoeness told the court he was glad that all the details were “transparently on the table.”
“I deeply regret my wrongdoing,” he added. “I will do everything necessary to ensure that this depressing chapter for me is closed.”
The Bayern boss said he used the Swiss bank account to trade stocks, conducting tens of thousands of transactions between 2001 and 2010, but added that he had also donated millions of euros to charities.
“I’m no social parasite,” Hoeness told the court.
Four days of hearings have been scheduled, with a verdict expected tomorrow.
German authorities have been cracking down on tax-evaders recently and their widely-publicized purchase of leaked account information on thousands of investors has led many to turn themselves in.
News of the case against Hoeness, one of the most prominent figures in German soccer, emerged last April, prompting German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman to weigh in and say the country’s leader was disappointed in him.
As a player, Hoeness was a Bayern star who won the 1972 European Championship and 1974 World Cup with West Germany, and three straight European Cups before retiring in 1979 with knee problems.
Bayern have been enjoying unprecedented success under Hoeness’ presidency. His friend, former coach Jupp Heynckes, led them to Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup wins last season, a feat the club are favored to repeat under current coach Pep Guardiola.
Things are looking good off the field, too, with Bayern last month saying that insurer Allianz acquired a stake in the franchise, alongside sportswear firm Adidas and carmaker Audi, for 110 million euros.