For Uli Hoeness, the next four days will be a painful reminder of how a decade-old folly turned a German soccer icon into one of the countrys most prominent tax dodgers.
The president of Bayern Munich soccer club and a member of the German national team that won the 1974 World Cup is scheduled to appear in a Munich court today on charges he hid trading profits in Switzerland to evade taxes.
Hoeness, 62, is one of the most well known Germans seeking clemency by disclosing violations and paying back the taxes. Countries around the globe have sought to uncover wealthy citizens who tried to hide savings in European tax havens Switzerland, Luxembourg and Lichtenstein.
If someone famous like Hoeness is being exposed like this, it certainly has effects, for better or worse, said Manuel Theisen, a business and tax professor at Munich University. The case prompted many others to turn themselves in, because they fear if someone like him is being prosecuted it means no one is safe.
The Hoeness probe started a year ago when he reported himself to authorities after lawmakers rejected a treaty that would have stopped prosecutors from buying stolen Swiss bank data with details on German account holders.
The fact that prosecutors charged him indicates they dont believe he disclosed all of his assets on a voluntary self-declaration filing, said Martin Wulf, an attorney at Streck Mack Schwedhelm in Berlin.
To be valid, a self declaration has to be complete, said Wulf, who isnt involved in the case. The filing must provide all information about the person to allow the tax authorities to gauge how much tax is due.
In an interview in May 2013 with German weekly Die Zeit, Hoeness said he committed a huge folly when he hid money in the Swiss account. Former Adidas AG Chief Executive Officer Robert Louis-Dreyfus in 2001 lent him 5 million euros ($7 million) and acted as a guarantor for another loan of 15 million euros, Hoeness said. He used the money to gamble and speculate on the stock market until 2006 and didnt pay taxes on the profits, he said.
Hanns Feigen, Hoeness attorney, didnt return a call seeking comment. The court has scheduled four days of trial and a verdict may come as soon as March 13.
Before making his fortune as the founder the HoWe Wurstwaren KG sausage factory, Hoeness played almost nine years for a Bayern Munich team that won three league titles and European cups during the 1970s. He was one of six Bayern Munich players, including Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Mueller and Paul Breitner, who helped the German national team win the 1974 World Cup title against the Netherlands.
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Bayern Munich Heros Folly Keeps German Focus on Tax Evasion