Updated: Wednesday, 12 March 2014 00:52 | By Agence France-Presse

Bayern chief's tax dodge 'millions more' than admitted

The legal troubles of Bayern Munich boss Uli Hoeness deepened on Tuesday as the alleged scale of his tax fraud grew by millions more in a high-profile trial in Germany.


Bayern chief's tax dodge 'millions more' than admitted

Uli Hoeness President of German first division Bundesliga football club Bayern Munich, waits for the start of the second day of his trial at the regional court in Munich, southern Germany, on March 11, 2014 - by Sven Hoppe

Hoeness, who is fighting to avoid a jail term, now stands accused of having dodged 27.2 million euros ($37.6 million) in taxes by hiding his wealth in secret Swiss bank accounts.

The figure was a jump from the 18.5 million euros Hoeness had confessed to at the trial's opening Monday, which was itself almost five times more than prosecutors had assumed.

A rueful Hoeness, 62, told the Munich court that he had stashed away the money during years of obsessive stocks and currency "gambling", during which he had lost sight of his winnings and losses.

The latest witness, a tax official, said the new amount was a conservative estimate based on 70,000 digitised pages of bank data he had provided just two weeks ago.

As the case grew more complex and more witnesses were called, the Munich court initially signalled that the trial was likely to extend beyond its scheduled four days.

But the court spokeswoman, Andrea Titz, later told journalists that, since the defence had not challenged the latest tax fraud figures, a verdict on Thursday had again become more likely.

- Tax report 'a soap bubble' -

Earlier in the day, the reputedly tough Bavarian judge Rupert Heindl had heard testimony from the tax investigator that Hoeness had withheld incriminating evidence for over a year.

The tax official said that IT specialists had determined that a mountain of bank data that Hoeness's lawyers had handed in on a USB stick to authorities two weeks ago in fact dated from January 18 last year.

That was one day after Hoeness had first turned himself in for tax cheating, which led police to raid his lakeside luxury home and briefly arrest the football legend before releasing him on bail.

Hoeness has spent more than four decades with the powerhouse club Bayern Munich -- first as a player, then as team manager and, since 2009, as club president.

He has stayed on at the helm of the European champions club amid pledges of loyalty from fans and players, and support from corporate sponsors such as Adidas, Audi and Deutsche Telekom.

However, the public mood has darkened, with wider condemnation of German super-rich tax cheats who hide their money abroad rather than pay their fair share for roads, schools and hospitals at home.

"I am stunned by the scale of the tax evasion," said the Social Democrats' parliamentary chief Thomas Oppermann, while some regional politicians demanded Hoeness quickly step down as club president.

Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung charged that when Hoeness first turned himself in -- at a time when journalists had started to aggressively investigate his case -- he had only told a half-truth.

"His self-reporting was like a shiny soap bubble," the newspaper said. 

"It suggested Hoeness had decided to come clean. But it wasn't so. Hoeness, more specifically his lawyer, knew the bubble would burst. That's why they have now pricked it themselves."

Prosecutors have long argued that Hoeness' initial statement contained irregularities and, at any rate, would not entitle him to immunity because authorities were already circling in on Hoeness.

The maximum punishment for major tax fraud under German law is 10 years jail, although sentences are usually shorter and can be suspended.

Another newspaper, the Flensburger Tageblatt from northern Germany, pointed out that a possible guilty verdict would resonate far and wide by pushing citizens to rethink the finer details on their tax returns.

Since the case first made headlines, the daily said, "it has already triggered a tsunami of self-reporting that has flushed millions into the state coffers."

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