Bayern chief accepts prison sentence

Uli Hoeness will not appeal against his prison term after admitting unpaid tax on tens of millions of euros.

    Uli Hoeness, Bayern Munich's president who was jailed for three and a half years, says he has decided not to appeal against his conviction for tax evasion and is stepping down immediately as president of the club.

    Hoeness, one of the most prominent figures in German football, was convicted on Thursday of evading millions of euros in tax through an undeclared bank account.

    Hoeness said in a brief statement posted on Bayern's website on Friday that he decided after talking with his family to accept the verdict and he instructed his lawyers not to appeal.

    He says he's stepping down immediately as club president and as the chairman of its supervisory board.

    Earlier, Hoeness had sought leniency after admitting to court he withheld tax on money. However, the judge in his trial, Rupert Heindl, ruled that Hoeness's disclosure was incomplete and thus did not meet rules required for an amnesty under German laws designed to encourage tax evaders to come clean.

    I deeply regret my wrongdoing. I'm doing everything I can to put this unhappy chapter behind me

    Uli Hoeness, Bayern Munich president

    Prosecutors originally charged Hoeness with evading tax on $4.8m of earnings. On the first day of the trial he stunned the court by admitting the figure was $25.8m. However, further state investigations showed that he in fact owed tax on a total of $37.92m.

    Hoeness, 62, bowed his head and stared at the floor when the verdict was delivered in Munich, his face turning red.

    "In the name of the people, Mr Ulrich Hoeness is sentenced for seven 
    serious counts of tax evasion to a prison term of three years and six months," 
    the judge said.

    The case hinged on the question whether Hoeness, who as a player helped West Germany win the 1974 World Cup, fully co-operated with his voluntary disclosure. It shocked the nation and prompted thousands of other tax evaders to turn themselves in.

    Hoeness apologised to the court and pleaded for leniency.

    "I deeply regret my wrongdoing," he said on Monday. "I'm doing everything I can to put this unhappy chapter behind me."

    Prosecutors had demanded a sentence of five and a half years' jail.

    Tax evasion is a serious crime in Germany. Peter Graf, the late father of tennis champion Steffi Graf, was sentenced in 1997 to three years and nine months for evading $8.78m. He was released after 25 months.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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