MUNICH: German media reports have suggested that Uli Hoeness, president of European and German champions Bayern Munich, is to face charges shortly over his tax evasion case writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Bild was first with claims that prosecutors are close to announcing a decision concerning Hoeness, one of if not the most powerful man in German football, after his January filing of a voluntary disclosure that he had not paid tax on a Swiss bank account.
In May, Hoeness offered to resign from the leadership of the Bayern board, but this was rejected pending further events. German law stipulates that tax evasion of more than €1m may be punishable by a prison sentence.
Hoeness appeared at new coach Pep Guardiola’s first press conference at Bayern two weeks ago but has since, apparently on medical and general advice, stayed out of the spotlight.
Club chief exective Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said: “Uli has withdrawn himself a bit. I think that is wise and right. I wish and hope this story ends on a positive note for him.”
Hoeness was arrested and bailed earlier this year for failing to declare income from a Swiss bank account which he had set up for his stock exchange dealings.
The revelation was a shock to German politics as well as sport because Hoeness had been an outspoken critic of business sharp practice. He had always been a long-time critic of FIFA president Sepp Blatter over the various bribery and vote-rigging scandals within the world federation.
The genesis of the affair was in 2000 when Hoeness was loaned between €10m and €15m by the then Adidas boss Robert Louis-Dreyfus to invest in the stock market. An account was opened at the Zurich-based Bank Vontobel AG.
The profits were apparently taxed in Switzerland but not as capital gains tax in Germany while a number of amnesties came and went.
Hoeness said in a weekend interview that he became virtually addicted the stock exchange ‘gambling’. When he took a flight the market prices were the last item he checked before boarding a plane and the first he checked on landing.
Adidas itself has denied that the cash provision was anything else than a private arraangements between Hoeness and Louis-Dreyfus, who was already seriously ill at the time and died in 2001. It will not have gone unnoticed, however, that at the time the two men were negotiation a long-term deal between football club and sponsor.
Sources close to Hoeness say that he, like other cross-border investors, had planned to capitalise on a new amnesty law. However a draft bill to ratify such a legal loophole was scrapped last autumn after parliamentary opposition from the Greens.
Thus in January Hoeness found himself telling all to the tax authorities.
Versions vary over who took the initiative. Hoeness, in a statement last April 21, said: “I filed a voluntary disclosure about the account to my accountant at the tax office in January 2013. I trust fully in the work of the authorities involved in the case.”
However it has emerged that the former World Cup and Champions Cup winer was place formally under arrest and secured his release on €5m bail.
If Hoeness is charged it appears inevitable that he will have to step down as president. Bayern’s board may seek to reinstall Franz Beckenbauer as formal president. Beckenbauer stepped aside four years ago in favour of then general manager Hoeness after frequent absences from the club on FIFA duty.
Bringing Beckenbauer back would, however, offer reassuring guarantees to the German sports business community.