Football

Published: Thursday March 13, 2014 MYT 12:17:04 AM
Updated: Thursday March 13, 2014 MYT 12:17:55 AM

Ruling in Bayern soccer boss tax-dodging case seen on Thursday

MUNICH (Reuters) - A German judge signalled he would rule on Thursday whether the president of Bayern Munich soccer club had evaded 27 million euros ($37.44 million) in tax, after a third day in court ended in less than two hours of testimony.

The trial of 62-year-old Uli Hoeness, admired by many for turning Bayern into one of the world's top teams, has stunned Germans.

Newspapers splashed pictures of him celebrating Bayern's advance to the Champions League quarter finals in the stadium on Tuesday, just hours after appearing in the Munich court.

Judge Rupert Heindl told the court on Wednesday he would hear no evidence the following day unless there were new submissions.

That would leave prosecutors and defence lawyers to sum up before a verdict. The sentence - which could be up to 10 years in jail - could come the same day.

The case hinges on whether Hoeness, who played for West Germany when it won the World Cup in 1974, has been fully cooperative and transparent in his confessions of tax evasion.

Legal experts say an amnesty for tax dodgers who turn themselves in does not count if an investigation is already underway or if the confession is incomplete.

Hoeness, who also owns a sausage factory, has argued he turned himself in to tax authorities and told them about his Swiss bank account and undeclared income in January 2013.

On Monday, Hoeness told the court he had evaded 18.5 million euros in tax, more than five times the amount he had been charged with.

But on Tuesday a tax inspector told the court documents showed the real amount was 27.2 million euros and that her office had waited for more than a year for Hoeness to turn in bank records.

Testimony from an IT expert on Wednesday, which focused on when information was put on a data stick and how complete it was, appeared to contradict some of the evidence given on Tuesday and cast doubt on allegations Hoeness had held back information.

Defence lawyer Hanns Feigen, responding to comments from the court spokeswoman that the defence had been surprised by the higher numbers revealed on Tuesday, said the amended tax returns, for a total of 27.2 million euros in accrued tax, also covered the amount Hoeness owed from currency trades.

"We aren't stupid, I wanted to stress that here," Feigen said.

The case has led to thousands of Germans paying back taxes to avoid prosecution. It has also raised pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition to clamp down harder on tax evaders.

"The way it looks now, the gathering of evidence will come to a close today (Wednesday) and no further applications will be made," said court spokeswoman Andrea Titz.

"If that is indeed the case, the closing arguments will be tomorrow morning and a verdict could be announced over the course of tomorrow afternoon." ($1 = 0.7212 Euros)

(Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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