Why Hoeness accepts jail | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 15.03.2014
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Why Hoeness accepts jail

Uli Hoeness is not appealing his tax fraud conviction. At first glance, he looks like someone willing to come clean - but there were likely numerous calculations behind his decision.

Uli Hoeness is a fighter. That makes his decision not to appeal his sentence all the more surprising. He instructed his lawyers not to take any further steps against the judgment, Hoeness said in a statement published on the FC Bayern website on Friday (14.03.2014).

Why did he make that decision, even though his lawyers announced a request for an appeal immediately after sentence was passed on Thursday? The fact is, despite his cantankerous nature, the public has always seen Uli Hoeness as something of a moral authority. That image has been damaged. Nevertheless, behind his decision to enter prison there may lay an attempt to reclaim some of his moral integrity.

Burkhard Binnewies is a partner in the law firm Streck Mack Schwedhelm, which represented former Deutsche Post CEO Klaus Zumwinkel in his tax evasion trial and kept him from serving a jail sentence. The tax law expert told DW he didn't see legal considerations behind Hoeness' action: "I believe it was a personal decision, in keeping with Uli Hoeness' character. He says 'I do not want to argue further, I accept the consequences, I'll accept the punishment.'"

An appeal has no effect on sentencing

Jochen Bachmann

Bachmann says the supreme court isn't keen on tax evaders

Like many aspects of the trial, this last act is more complex than it appears at first glance: an appeal would probably not have a positive effect on the sentence. It would only address the legality of Hoeness' voluntary disclosure. This is an issue only Germany's Supreme Court could address. According to tax lawyer Jochen Bachmann, the defense would even be taking a risk by escalating the case: "The Supreme Court is currently not too keen on tax evaders. As we always say, 'bad cases make bad law.' If the court concluded that the voluntary disclosure was not effective, it could ultimately lead to the hurdles involved with voluntary disclosure being set even higher."

Going straight

In addition, the sentence of three and a half years doesn't necessarily mean that Hoeness will actually have to serve that much time in prison. In Germany there are a number of mitigating factors that can improve prison conditions. "Uli Hoeness could be classified as a day release prisoner, for example, which would mean that he stays in the detention center at night but during the day he could pursue an activity and then return to the prison in the evening," Binnewies said. In Bavaria, this is common after half of the fixed penalty has elapsed. For Hoeness, this would be 21 months.

Depending on Hoeness' behavior in prison, the overall time he would have to serve could be reduced by putting him on probation. "This applies to the last third of the sentence, so after two and a half years, it could be the case that the remainder of the sentence is commuted to probation," Binnewies said.

Caspar von Hauenschild (Photo: Global Media Forum)

von Hauenschild says Hoeness has lost his moral authority

Resignation from all posts at Bayern

No matter how much time he serves, Hoeness' reputation is likely to be damaged forever. And his job was the first thing to go: Parallel to his decision not to appeal, he resigned all his positions at Bayern Munich. Caspar von Hauenschild, a board member of Transparency International, sees this as the only suitable outcome. Speaking on German public television, he said, "On every board of directors, in every company, the chairman is the final authority. When a difficult decision must be made, he speaks up. This voice has lost its authority thanks to Uli Hoeness and can no longer be taken seriously."

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