BERLIN: Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness has been told he must stand trial on charges of tax evasion over stock market investments he had parked in a Swiss bank.

The decision of the federal prosecutor’s office was announced just as Bayern’s players and senior officials were arriving in Plzen for the holders’ Champions League tie.

Hoeness, who claims he declared the issue to the tax authorities voluntarily last January, said: “I am surprised. Now we will go to court in March and do everything possible to convince the court of my arguments.”

The trial is due to start on March 10 with four hearings scheduled. The case is thoight to concern tax evasion concerning €3.2m. The maximum penalties range from fines to five years’ jail or, in serious cases, 10 years.

The investigation by Munich public prosecutor became public knowledge last April. In fact by then Hoeness had been free on bail of €5m for a month.

Voluntary payment

Hoeness’s stance is that his revenues in an account held with the Swiss Vontobel bank became illegal only after parliamentary proposals for a tax amnesty collapsed. He later offered a voluntary payment of settlement. This did not satisfy the tax office or prosecutors.

Bayern’s main, supervisory board – including some of Germany’s most high-profile businessmen – refused to accept Hoeness’s offer of resignation. One reason was that Bayern, at the time, were just approaching the end to what turned out to be a glorious, treble-winning season. Secondly, Hoeness was deemed to be innocent while not proven guilty.

The supervisory board also obtained legal opinion that to maintain Hoeness was perfectly legal and not without precedent under German business law.

A statement from the club reiterated its confidence in Hoeness as president. He acknowledged the support of both the board and the club’s fans, adding: “I made ​​this mistake as a private citizen and, as a private citizen, must take the consequenves. Bugt I do not believe my work for FC Bayern has been harmed in any way.”

Veteran midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, arriving in Plzen, said: “This will not disturb our preparation for the game. The best thing we can do Uli Hoeness is make sure we keep winning games.”