The president of Bayern Munich football club, Uli Hoeness, has said that he has filed amended tax returns, admitting to a Swiss bank account. Public prosecutors are looking into a possible tax avoidance case.
Uli Hoeness told Germany's Focus magazine at the weekend that he had filed an amended tax return in January of this year, and that public prosecutors are now looking at the football luminary's records. The bi-weekly publication, released to subscribers on Sundays and available at the news stands on Mondays, published excerpts of its interview with Hoeness on its online portal on Saturday. Hoeness is Bayern Munich's club president and supervisory board chairman; he was also a decorated Bayern and Germany player in the 1970s.
"I handed in an amended return at the finance ministry via my tax consultant in January 2013," Hoeness told Focus, saying that this was related "to an account of mine in Switzerland."
The senior public prosecutor in Munich, Ken Heidenreich, told the magazine that his office had begun investigations as a result of the corrected tax return, saying his office was now conducting an "analysis of the efficacy and the completeness of the amended return."
Under German law, filing an amended return can reduce levels of culpability and back payments in the event of tax avoidance. This partial amnesty is subject to a string of conditions though.
Previous plans stopped in Bundesrat
Hoeness told Focus that he had "originally" planned to solve the issue of his Swiss bank account under the terms of a bilateral deal between Germany and Switzerland, "which then failed to come into being in December 2012, as we know."
This deal, approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government and ratified in Switzerland, was rejected by Germany's opposition Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party in the Bundesrat upper house of parliament - where the opposition currently holds a controlling influence. The left-leaning German parties objected to several terms of the deal, including a promise of continued anonymity for people using the bilateral pact to pay German tax on their assets in Switzerland. Merkel sought to salvage the deal in a special last-gasp administration process, where it was again rejected by the opposition.
Markus Hörwick, a club spokesman for the freshly-crowned Bundesliga champions, said the Bavarian side did not want to comment on the story.
No stranger to headlines
Hoeness is part of the furniture at Bayern Munich, a leadership figure above day-to-day coach Jupp Heynckes, who's charged with leading the team on the pitch. One role Hoeness often performs for Bayern is to speak on the club's behalf in public, a job he undertakes in a somewhat outspoken and occasionally confrontational style. Just this week, for instance, he took European football's governing body, UEFA, to task for failing to "forcefully" implement its new Financial Fair Play rules.
These rules state that teams who cannot demonstrate firm financial foundations risk UEFA sanctions, including the possibility a ban from European competition. So far, only the comparatively low-profile Spanish side Malaga has faced a ban from UEFA competition.
Hoeness asked on Servus TV how UEFA President Michel Platini would act, "especially with his friends in Paris, in Milan, in England at Manchester City," on the matter. Big-spending clubs like Paris St. Germain, AC Milan and Manchester City represent serious competition for Bayern, perhaps unlike Malaga, but they cannot boast anywhere near as much black ink on their balance sheets.
Hoeness has also upset domestic rival fans in the past by describing outgoing Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund as "a relatively regional thing, but Bayern is a global player."
As well as the failed deal with Switzerland, the issue of so-called tax havens has come under particular scrutiny this month with the release of the "Offshore Leaks" list of as many as 130,000 alleged, potential tax dodgers from around the world.
msh/slk (AFP, dpa, Reuters, SID)