MUNICH (Reuters) - Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness, once one of Germany’s most admired soccer managers, heads to court on Monday to face charges that he dodged taxes in a case that shocked the German public and spurred others to turn themselves in.
Hoeness, who as a player won the World Cup with West Germany in 1974 and has been credited with turning Bayern Munich into one of the world’s most respected clubs, has said he told tax authorities about his Swiss bank account and undeclared income of his own accord in January 2013.
While he has now paid back the taxes and fines he owed, it is unclear whether he informed the tax office about his offence early enough or comprehensively enough.
A regional court in Munich will decide on the 62-year-old’s fate. If convicted, he faces a possible jail sentence. Hoeness has said he hoped he could avoid prosecution.
Media reports say prosecutors have charged Hoeness with evading 3.5 million euros in taxes on 30 million euros of income that was earned in his Swiss bank account through market trading between 2003 and 2009.
The case led to thousands of people preemptively paying back taxes in the hope of avoiding prosecution and has helped change the German public’s perception of tax evasion from being seen as a misdemeanor to representing a serious crime.
German legal experts say amnesty for tax evaders who turn themselves in is void if an investigation had already started or if a confession was incomplete.
The case has led to calls to change German laws that allow tax evaders to avoid prosecution if they turn themselves in before an investigation starts.
Thomas Eigenthaler, chairman of the DSTG union representing tax administration workers, expects the trial against Hoeness to result in another wave of German tax evaders turning themselves in, German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported on Sunday.
“We expect 60,000 to 120,000 people to turn themselves in over the coming years,” Eigenthaler was quoted as saying.
He said that along with German states’ purchases of confidential CDs containing tax data, the Hoeness case was “an important factor” in that, because he “significantly” increased people’s fear of being discovered.
Reporting by Joern Poeltz in Munich and Erik Kirschbaum in Berlin; additional reporting by Michelle Martin in Berlin; Editing by Mike Collett-White