Uli Hoeness, the former German national soccer player and now president of Bayern Munich football club, is being investigated for tax evasion after reporting himself to authorities in January in a bid for amnesty.
Munich prosecutors are examining whether the formal declaration, possible under German law to win a pardon for tax violations, “was complete and valid,” Ken Heidenreich, a spokesman for the prosecutors, said in an interview today. As a rule, amnesty is only granted if such a declaration is “exhaustive,” he said.
Hoeness, 61, who made his fortune with sausages as founder of the HoWe Wurstwaren KG factory that makes a version of the famous Nuremberger Rostbratwurst, is the most prominent German to seek clemency after lawmakers rejected a treaty that would have ended the country’s practice of buying stolen Swiss bank data to uncover tax evaders. Last week, the homes of 200 Credit Suisse Group AG customers were raided by prosecutors as part of a tax-evasion probe based on account data obtained by a German state government.
Bayern Munich’s press office declined to comment on behalf of the club or Hoeness. Hoeness’s defense attorneys, Werner Leitner and Andreas Groetsch, didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.
German opposition parties have rejected the government’s attempts to resolve disputes with Switzerland over how to tax funds held by German citizens at banks in the Alpine country as well as handle assets undeclared in the past.
Focus magazine, which reported the Hoeness investigation at the weekend, said the former soccer professional speculated that a treaty between the two countries would go through.
A member of the German team that won the 1974 World Cup, Hoeness scored 86 goals in 239 Bundesliga appearances and played for Bayern Munich for more than eight years before retiring because of injury at the age of 27.
His home in Tegernseer Tal, a popular tourist resort near Munich, was raided last month in the probe, the magazine said.
“Many people in Germany are disappointed in Uli Hoeness at the moment and the chancellor counts among them,” Steffen Seibert, the chief government spokesman, told reporters today in Berlin.
The Social Democrat Party, behind Merkel’s Christian Democrat bloc in voter polls five months before federal elections, said Hoeness’s case proves its contention that the treaty would have let tax evaders off lightly.
The German government reiterated its defense of the tax accord.
“With the treaty we would have guaranteed that all taxpayers for the past and for the future would have had to pay,” German Finance Ministry spokesman Martin Kotthaus said. Since the opposition blocked the treaty, past holdings that exceed the statute of limitations are now lost, he said.
Bild-Zeitung reported that Hoeness is said to have kept 20 million euros ($26 million) in a Swiss account and deposited 10 million euros in potential tax arrears when he reported himself. The newspaper didn’t say where it got the information.
The push to crack down on tax evasion comes as many European nations struggle to narrow budget deficits in the face of stalled growth and a regional debt crisis.
The European Union’s six largest countries vowed on April 13 to move ahead with an initiative for automatic sharing of bank information across borders to battle tax evasion. Germany, France, the U.K., Italy, Spain and Poland called for the 27-nation bloc to adopt the FATCA information exchange program.
Austria and Luxembourg earlier this month announced plans that bring them more in line with the EU’s position, leaving Switzerland increasingly isolated and clinging to its bilateral accords with the U.K. and Austria, which still shield client identities.