Hoeness tax saga hits Berlin, Bayern boss back on attack | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 22.04.2013
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Hoeness tax saga hits Berlin, Bayern boss back on attack

German politicians of all stripes have raced to comment on the Swiss bank account confession from Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness. As the football turns political, Hoeness has also hinted at secondary consequences.

Bayern Munich club president Uli Hoeness told the local Münchener Merkur newspaper on Monday that he'd be launching a counter-attack of his own, once he had solved the tax problems first reported by German magazine Focus on Saturday.

After Focus reported, quoting Hoeness directly, that the Bayern president "handed in an amended tax return" in connection "to an account of mine in Switzerland," the football luminary said his lawyers would be busy on multiple fronts in the coming weeks.

"I will defend myself with the help of my lawyers against the excesses in some news reports," Hoeness told the Monday edition of the Münchener Merkur. For one Munich newspaper, he said, without naming the publication, "this could get very expensive."

As the German press mobilized on Monday, the Bayern boss might have seen some more headlines and comments to which he objected. He also told the Merkur that he had no intention of stepping down from his role at Bayern, and that he would be present in the stadium on Tuesday for the club's Champions League semifinal first leg against Barcelona.

From Bavaria to Berlin

Germany's top politicians, meanwhile, took the opportunity to renew debate on the issue of tax evasion and specifically Switzerland. Hoeness was quoted by Focus in the original report first released on Saturday that he had "originally" planned to settle his tax situation under the terms of a bilateral Swiss-German deal, "which then failed to come into being in December 2012, as we know."

The deal was approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and ratified in Switzerland, but was stopped in the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, where the opposition Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party hold a majority influence.

Opposition leaders on Monday said they were right to cancel the deal, citing the high-profile Hoeness example as evidence.

"Mr. Hoeness and many others were relying on the deal being signed," Social Democrat candidate for chancellor Peer Steinbrück said on ARD public television, "so they could retain their anonymity and so they could effectively legalize their behavior retroactively."

The promise of continued anonymity for those using the proposed bilateral deal to pay German taxes on assets in Switzerland was one of three key objections cited by the German opposition.

Politicians weigh in

Hoeness hails from Germany's conservative heartland Bavaria and was popular with the government as well as large chunks of the German public.

"Many people are now disappointed in Uli Hoeness, the German chancellor also counts among these people," Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday.

Many other top German politicians were called for comment by various publications. The Green Party co-candidate for chancellor, Katrin Göring-Eckhardt told the Rheinischer Post newspaper that "tax evasion … is criminal, plain and simple," while pro-business FDP Economy Minister Philipp Rösler instead said that someone using Swiss banks "damages our country and has lost any right to be considered a role model."

msh/mz (dpa, Reuters, SID)