SPORT

Uli Hoeneß, Bayern Munich President, Admits To Evading Millions In Taxes

10/03/2014 14:38 GMT | Updated 10/03/2014 15:59 GMT
AFP via Getty Images
Uli Hoeness (C), President of German first division Bundesliga football club Bayern Munich, arrives for the opening of his trial at the regional court in Munich, southern Germany, on March 10, 2014. Uli Hoeness, a German football legend, is on trial for evading millions in taxes by hiding his wealth in a Swiss bank account. AFP PHOTO / POOL / SVEN HOPPE (Photo credit should read SVEN HOPPE/AFP/Getty Images)

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeneß has admitted to evading taxes through an undeclared Swiss bank account at a trial that could send the German football great to prison.

Prosecutor Achim von Engel told the Munich state court that Hoeneß evaded €3.5 million (£2.9 million) in taxes by concealing €33m (£27.5) income through an undeclared Swiss bank account, Germany's dpa news agency reported.

Hoeneß reported himself to authorities in early 2013, and part of the trial will be to determine whether he did that because he had become aware there was an investigation against him or for other reasons, which will affect the sentence he receives. If found guilty he faces anything from a fine to 10 years in prison.

uli hoeness

Hoeneß (left), with Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge

No pleas are entered in the German system. But as the trial opened, Hoeneß, who also is part owner of a Nuremberg sausage factory, said he had hoped to avoid the case going to court by reporting himself to authorities.

"I evaded taxes," he told the court. "I'm aware that reporting myself doesn't change anything."

But he said now he was glad that all the details were "transparently on the table".

"I deeply regret my wrongdoing," he said. "I will do everything necessary to ensure that this depressing chapter for me is closed."

Hoeneß also noted that he had donated millions of euro to charities. "I'm no social parasite," he told the court.

Four days have been scheduled for hearings, with a verdict expected on Thursday.

German authorities have been cracking down on tax-evaders in recent years, and have recovered hundreds of millions of euro. Their widely-publicised purchase of leaked account information on thousands of investors, as well as high-profile cases such as that against Hoeneß and former Deutsche Post AG CEO Klaus Zumwinkel, has led to thousands of people turning themselves in.

News of the case against Hoeneß, one of the most prominent figures in German football, emerged last April - prompting even Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman to weigh in and say the country's leader was disappointed in him.

Hoeneß in court

As a player, Hoeneß won the 1972 European Championship and the 1974 World Cup with West Germany and three straight European Cups with Bayern before retiring in 1979 with chronic knee problems.

Bayern have been enjoying unprecedented success under Hoeneß' presidency. His friend, Jupp Heynckes, led the side to the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup wins last season, and Bayern are favourites to repeat the treble under successor Pep Guardiola, who has been breaking records this season.