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Boris Becker Admits 'Mistake' on Taxes

October 23, 2002

The former tennis star's lawyer announced his client had recently paid millions in back taxes -- but prosecutors urged the judge to sentence the three-time Wimbledon winner to 3.5 years in jail.

Becker told the court that the investigations ended his tennis careerImage: AP

Boris Becker told a Munich regional court on Wednesday he had made a mistake by not paying taxes in Germany and his lawyer surprised the court with news that Becker had recently paid 3 million euros in back taxes.

“I admit that I made a mistake 10 years ago and I know that I will have to pay the consequences for that,” said 34-year-old Becker at the beginning of his tax-evasion trial, which was crowded with fans, journalists and people who were outraged at the idea of a millionaire not paying taxes.

German state prosecutors remained adamant about penalizing the three-time Wimbledon winner, who retired from his tennis career three years ago.

"Last-minute confession"

“After seven years of denial, he admitted his crime at the start of the trial and paid the back taxes,” state prosecutor Matthias Musial told the court. “This was a last-minute confession.”

Prosecutors asked for a sentence of three years and six months in jail for evading taxes from 1991 to 1993. A sentence is expected Thursday morning.

The case revolves around the question of where Becker lived during this two-year period when his tennis career was thriving.

Where was his home?

Becker had claimed that he had lived in the tax haven of Monaco from 1991 to 1993. But Becker -- who was on a grueling travel schedule at the time -- also had an apartment in Munich where he occasionally stayed.

“I stayed at times in a spartan flat in Munich between the autumn of 1991 and 1993 that had just a bed and a couch but didn’t even have a refrigerator," he said. "I was permanently on the road. My office was the whole world. The 'word' home didn’t really exist for me.”

Tax authorities had investigated Becker for years, and he was originally charged with withholding taxes of 10.4 million deutsche marks ($5 million). The trial was for the considerably lower sum of 1.6 million euro for which prosecutors believed they had evidence.

Countless raids

Becker told the court on Wednesday that the investigations played a role in his decision to retire from tennis. “There were countless raids of my house and office,” Becker said. “They have been pursuing me for the last six years. It was a burden. I haven’t won any tournaments since then and ended my career.”

Over the course of his tennis career, Becker earned $25 million in prize money and made millions on endorsements. Since retiring, however, Becker had lost much of this to an expensive divorce, a settlement with another woman who had his child and a string of failed businesses.