Germany's Bayern boss Uli Hoeness may have hid millions from taxmen

BERLIN (AFP) - The president of German football club Bayern Munich, Mr Uli Hoeness, may have hidden more than 10 million euros (S$16 million) from tax authorities, according to a Sunday media report.

Mr Hoeness, 61, revealed to Focus news weekly that he voluntarily disclosed a Swiss bank account in January and is working closely with investigators on a tax evasion probe.

The football legend and prosecutors have declined to divulge the sums involved, but Bild am Sonntag reported without citing its sources that Mr Hoeness had already paid nearly six million euros in back taxes.

The head of the German tax union, Mr Thomas Eigenthaler, said based on that sum, mr Hoeness had likely hidden at least 10 million euros in income.

Mr Hoeness, who also draws income from a sausage company he co-founded, told Focus that he originally planned to come forward after a planned German-Swiss tax accord came into effect, which would have allowed him to settle the matter anonymously with a one-off payment.

However, the centre-left opposition torpedoed the measure late last year on the grounds that it unfairly offered criminal amnesty to tax dodgers.

Five months ahead of a general election, the opposition Social Democrats leapt on the high-profile case as proving their point about the flaws in the mooted Swiss tax pact.

"Once again we are so surprised when a prominent case of tax evasion comes to light," SPD general secretary Andrea Nahles said in a statement. "These cases are bad enough for the social cohesion of our country. But it is much worse when this behaviour is sanctioned by political leaders."

However, Mr Philipp Roesler, leader of the pro-business Free Democrats, junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition, told Monday's Bild newspaper that Berlin aimed to take a firm line against tax cheats and that without the accord with Switzerland, many cases would go undetected.