German prosecutors say they won't appeal against the sentence handed down to ex-Bayern Munich football club boss Uli Hoeness, clearing the way for him to start his jail term. But the club remains stubbornly loyal.
German prosecutors in the southern city of Munich on Monday said they would not appeal against the three-and-a-half-year jail sentence handed down to ex-Bayern Munich football club boss Uli Hoeness last Thursday for tax evasion, despite calling for two years more during his trial.
As Hoeness has also accepted the sentence, he will be asked to begin serving his term within a few weeks, after the court has officially presented its reasons for the verdict in writing.
Hoeness was sentenced last week by a Munich regional court for having withheld 28.5 million euros ($39.5 million) in taxes from the authorities. He admitted to hiding his wealth in secret Swiss bank accounts while obsessively playing the stock and currency markets.
Although he had turned himself into authorities in January last year, his voluntary disclosure was found to be incomplete, meaning he was excluded from current amnesty laws for confessed tax evaders in Germany.
As a first-time offender, Hoeness is likely to serve his sentence in Landsberg prison, 60 km (37 miles) from Munich - the same prison where Adolf Hitler wrote his autobiographical manifesto "Mein Kampf" in 1924 while serving time for his involvement in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch.
Despite the conviction, Bayern Munich say they want to welcome him back after he has served his sentence.
"A door is always open and Uli Hoeness will always be the soul of the club," the head of Bayern's management board, Edmund Stoiber, told Die Welt newspaper.
"Whatever he wants to do, anything is possible," he added.
Coach Pep Guardiola also voiced his support for Hoeness.
"He deserves our respect. I hope he can come back in the future and help us," he said.
And fans chanted "Hoeness - you're the best man" during the club's 2-1 Saturday victory over Bayer Leverkusen.
Tougher rules for tax cheats?
Hoeness' case, and the cases of other prominent Germans found guilty of tax evasion, such as feminist activist Alice Schwarzer, has led to increased pressure on the ruling coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel to clamp down on tax dodging.
On Sunday, senior politicians called for tougher rules making it harder for tax evaders to claim amnesty by turning themselves in.
"Together with the federal states we want to tighten the conditions for amnesty further, " Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's Sunday edition.
Among other things, Schäuble said he wanted to extend the time period for which tax dodgers must declare earnings or money hidden abroad.
Currently, people who avoid paying more than 50,0000 euros in tax face a 5 percent fine and can apply for an amnesty under certain conditions.
tj/kms (AFP, Reuters, dpa)