by Danielle Stevens
Uli Hoeness, A former German Soccer champion faces up to ten years in prison after he turned himself into Munich prosecutors, admitting to keeping a secret bank account in Switzerland to use to evade taxes. The scandal that has come to light has left this former legend’s reputation for generosity in tattered ruins.
To say that Hoeness lived a fine life is quite the understatement. He had won soccer’s World Cup on his home turf in 1974. Uli, the son of a butcher, grew rich as a co-owner of a bratwurst factory in Nuremberg. Even this year, as president of one of Europe’s best sports teams, FC Bayern Munich, Hoeness has seen a record setting season both on the field and off. He had even managed to walk away from a fatal plane crash in 1982, which killed the three other passengers on board.
On Monday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper posted a report on its web site that the money in Hoeness’ Swiss bank account came from former chief executive of Adidas, Robert Louis-Dreyfus. Louis-Dreyfus had given about $13 million in cash to Hoeness who then guaranteed to invest; and although Hoeness had paid Louis-Dreyfus back, Adidas was allowed to purchase stake in the team’s soccer business.
The Günther Jauch Sunday talk show showed a record number of viewers tuning into watch as a panel of tax experts and sports analysts debated Hoeness’ failings. Some left-wing politicians talked negatively about him, out casting him. And even his friends in some conservative circles distanced themselves from him. “Many people in Germany are now disappointed in Uli Hoeness,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s, a friend of Hoeness’, spokesman Steffen Seibert stated at a news conference on Monday. “The Chancellor is one of those people.”
In the current election year, tax evasion had already emerged as a prominent problem; the left-wing opposition to it caused a scuffle between the German and Swiss governments, who would have given amnesty to people such as Hoeness in exchange for back taxes. However, instead of the chance to anonymously pay back what he owes, Hoeness had decided to become the picture for economic systems believed to be against the non-rich; the poor and middle class.
Hoeness isn’t the first famous German to be caught up in a tax scandal such as this. In 2002, Boris Becker, the Wimbledon tennis champ was convicted of tax evasion as well. Becker was sentenced to two years on probation after the court found that he was living in Munich while pretending to live in Monaco, which is a tax haven. And in 2008, authorities raided the home and office of former head of Deutshche Post, Klaus Zumwinkel. Zumwinkel was using a foundation in Liechtenstein to avoid over $1 million in taxes; he had also received only a sentence of probation.