MUNICH (AP) — Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness was found guilty and sentenced to 3½ years in prison on Thursday for evading millions of euros (dollars) in tax through an undeclared Swiss bank account.
The 62-year-old Hoeness, one of the most powerful figures in German soccer, was initially charged with dodging 3.5 million euros ($4.85 million) in taxes through the Swiss account.
But when his trial opened on Monday he admitted to avoiding 15 million euros more. Then it came out through an examination of documents he provided to investigators shortly before the trial that he owed 27.2 million euros in total — a figure Hoeness did not dispute.
Hoeness faced up to 10 years in prison, and the sentence came between the 5½ years suggested by the prosecution and the defense's plea for probation, based on the fact that he turned himself in for tax evasion and provided details to the court, the dpa news agency reported.
Following the verdict, defense attorney Hanns Feigen said he will appeal the decision to see how a higher court values Hoeness' "not ideal" confession. He added he was convinced the appeals court would come to a "better result" than the Munich state court did.
Hoeness will remain free on bail pending the outcome of the appeal.
German authorities have been cracking down on tax evaders in recent years and have recovered hundreds of millions of euros. Their widely publicized 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.
Hoeness, who also is part owner of a Nuremberg sausage factory, reported himself to the tax authorities last April — around the same time German media were investigating reports of high-profile tax evaders.
News of the case against the national icon prompted even Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman to weigh in and say the country's leader was disappointed in him.