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Justice

Tax evasion trial of Bayern Munich President Uli Hoeness begins

The president of football club Bayern Munich's, Uli Hoeness, is standing trial in Munich in a tax evasion case that has dominated headlines in Germany for over a year. If found guilty, he could face prison.

Bayern Munich president's tax fraud charges

The four-day trial of Uli Hoeness began on Monday morning at 9:30 a.m. local time (08:30 UTC). The president and supervisory board chairman of Bayern Munich's football team faces charges of tax evasion and could face a prison sentence if found guilty.

Prosecutors allege that he failed to pay just over 3.5 million euros in tax ($4.9 million). He also stands accused of wrongly declaring losses to the tune of 5.5 million euros.

However, according to Hoeness' lawyer, Hanns Feigen, he had actually withheld an additional 15 million euros in taxes between 2003 and 2009, putting the total at 18.5 million euros.

"I evaded taxes," Hoeness said. "I had hoped to escape criminal proceedings by turning myself in."

"[Now] I want to clear the air," he said, adding that he wanted to show he had improved where his tax filing practices were concerned.

In January 2013, Hoeness filed an amended tax return in which he voluntarily disclosed a previously unknown Swiss bank account. He has said that he would have approached officials earlier, but had been waiting for a bilateral Swiss-German deal for people assets in Swiss banks to go into effect. However, the upper house of parliament threw the agreement out in December 2012.

German law reduces levels of culpability for tax evaders if they voluntarily file an amended tax return. However, public prosecutors have argued that the Bayern Munich president's disclosure was incomplete. Speculation has circulated that he had stowed away millions.

The investigation surrounding the former football star and Bayern Munich leader has raised questions in Germany about whether famous tax evaders are given preferential treatment due to their status.

Bayern Munich's board has stood by Hoeness - under whose leadership the club won the Champions League, the Bundesliga and the German Cup in 2013 - despite the investigation, refusing to accept the former player and general manager's offer to suspend himself from club duties in May.

Earlier this year, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that the number of tax dodgers who had turned themselves tripled in 2013, bringing the annual total to 25,000 cases.

kms/ng (Reuters, dpa)

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