Bayern president Hoeness to be tried on tax charge

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness will go on trial in March on

tax evasion charges.

Judges decided last week to admit the indictment against Hoeness

and send the case to trial, the state court in Munich said Monday.

Proceedings are scheduled to start March 10.

The reigning German and European champions said their

supervisory board is standing by Hoeness and says he should stay on

as the board’s chairman, regardless of the legal proceedings.

Prosecutors filed the charges in July, months after the

61-year-old Hoeness reported himself to authorities over a

previously undeclared Swiss bank account.

Hoeness said he was ”very surprised” that authorities were

taking the case to trial.

”I will work very hard with my lawyers over the next four

months so that our arguments convince the court,” Hoeness told the

Sport Bild newspaper.

News of the case against Hoeness, one of the most prominent

figures in German football, emerged in April – prompting even

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman to weigh in and say the

country’s leader was disappointed in him.

Spokesman Steffen Seibert declined further comment Monday,

saying he had ”nothing to add.”

The court set four sessions for the trial, through March 13, and

said that plans so far call for four witnesses to testify. It did

not identify them.

The court said it couldn’t give details of the indictment before

it is read out in public at the trial because of tax secrecy laws.

Munich prosecutors also have declined to say how much money is

involved or give details.

In May, Bayern’s supervisory board backed Hoeness to remain in

the job despite the investigation against him. The club said

Hoeness apologized and offered to temporarily give up his functions

pending the outcome of his case. But the board unanimously asked

him to stay.

The club reinforced its backing for Hoeness on Monday, saying in

a statement that its position was backed by a study from two legal

experts.

Bayern pointed to Hoeness’ 30 years of ”outstanding services”

to the club and his position as an ”important leadership

personality,” and said the experts argued that there is no law

against people with criminal convictions serving on a supervisory

board. They also said it was ”erroneous” to argue that company

executives who serve on the board should push for Bayern to take a

”zero tolerance” approach toward Hoeness.

Bayern won the Bundesliga, the Champions League and the German

Cup last season. Under new coach Pep Guardiola, it is one point

clear of Borussia Dortmund at the top of the league 11 matches into

the season.

As a player, Hoeness was a Bayern star who won the 1972 European

Championship and the 1974 World Cup with West Germany and three

straight European Cups – the predecessor of the Champions League –

before retiring in 1979 with chronic knee problems.

Under his guidance as general manager, Bayern built financial

reserves rarely seen in debt-ridden European club football.

Hoeness told Sport Bild that he had received ”100 percent

support” from Bayern’s supervisory board and fans since the story

emerged.

”I made this mistake as a private person and I stand by it as a

private person, but I don’t think that my work for Bayern has

suffered from this,” he said.