BERLIN (Reuters) - Bayern Munich President Uli Hoeness will stand trial for tax evasion in March, a German court said on Monday, but his club wants him to stay on in his current role.
The charges of the prosecutor’s office were admitted for trial which is set to start on March 10.
Hoeness, the face of Bayern Munich for many years, stunned Germany in April by saying he had voluntarily alerted tax authorities in January to a Swiss bank account he held.
He said it was a personal account, created for his stock market trading. He admitted to gambling bigger and bigger amounts and taking a major hit as the dotcom bubble burst.
Last season’s treble winners said on Monday the board’s position was that Hoeness should remain as chairman despite the trial hanging over his head.
“The board is of the unanimous opinion that Uli Hoeness shall remain in his position even with a trial being set,” the Bavarians said.
Bayern, who demanded a legal opinion on the current situation, said legal experts cited Hoeness’ long Bayern career, his contribution to the club over decades and the overwhelming backing of Bayern members as supporting the board’s decision on Monday.
“Also the law for board members does not foresee any ban on holding office due to a criminal conviction. Indeed there are a number of cases, including listed companies, where board members kept their posts despite accusations of breaking the law in other areas of their lives,” Bayern said.
Hoeness himself said he was surprised that his own admission had not been accepted by the authorities.
“At first it has to be said that it was to be expected, whether I like it or not,” Hoeness told reporters in the Czech Republic ahead of their Champions League game at Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday.
“I am surprised that our voluntary alerting of the tax authorities so far is seen as invalid. We are going to do everything with my lawyers in the coming months until the trial in March to convince the court of our arguments.”
A World Cup and European championship winner with Germany, Hoeness, who also won three European Cups as a player at Bayern, spent 30 years since as the team’s general manager before being elected president of the Bundesliga’s richest and most successful club.
“The court will examine the evidence and then will decide whether indeed the charge of tax evasion can be substantiated,” Munich chief prosecutor Ken Heidenreich told Reuters Television.
He said it was too early to talk about potential sentences in case he was found guilty.
Bayern playmaker Bastian Schweinsteiger said the affair was not distracting the treble winners.
“We can focus on the game without any distraction,” he told reporters. “This has nothing to do with football. We players can do him the biggest favor if we win our games.”
Hoeness, who could face a jail sentence but hopes for leniency after naming himself as a tax evader, has said the account had nothing to do with Bayern.
German car maker Audi and sports equipment manufacturer Adidas, who both own stakes in the club, have not called for Hoeness’ resignation.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Pritha Sarkar