Uli Hoeness – The verdict, its consequences and reactions

The trial regarding Uli Hoeness’s tax evasion lasted four days, and in the end the judge Rupert Heindl handed Bayern’s president a 3 and a half year jail sentence. Hoeness had disclosed his undeclared taxes to the authorities at the beginning of last year, which would have saved him from a jail sentence according to German law. However, the prosecution stated that Hoeness’s disclosure was incomplete and therefore not valid, asking for a five and a half year sentence for the defendant.

Judge Heindl followed the public prosecutors reasoning on most of the points in his ruling, stating that Hoeness did have enough time on his hands to sort these matters out. Furthermore, the judge didn’t believe that Bayern’s president did lose the oversight of his Swiss bank account, stating that Hoeness knowingly evaded taxes. Hoeness had voluntarily disclosed some of his unpaid taxes in 2013. Normally that would have saved him from a jail sentence, but the judge declared his disclosure as not valid, because the material provide by Hoeness and his defence wasn’t complete at the time.

Appealing the sentence

Hoeness’s lawyer Hanns Feigen confirmed after sentencing that Hoeness wouldn’t accept the punishment handed to him by the judge. Thursday’s decision is going to be appealed to the German federal supreme court. However, there won’t be a repetition of the trial. The supreme court is only going to look at the formalities and if the trial was conducted correctly. If the judges don’t manage to find a mistake committed during the prosecution Hoeness’s appeal won’t be granted and Thursday’s sentence would stand.

Spiegel Online wrote on Thursday that 19 out of 20 of those appeals are rejected by the supreme court. Hoeness’s case is different though, because no German court has so far declared a voluntarily disclosure of evaded taxes as not valid due to a lack of material turned over to the state, meaning that there is no legal precedence set by the supreme court. It is by no means a certainty that the supreme court is going to uphold today’s ruling according to several German legal experts given the ruling’s circumstances.

Hoeness’s future at Bayern

The sentence puts Uli Hoeness’s future at Bayern in doubt. The 62-year-old served the club as a player from the age of 18 and took over as the Bavarian’s manager 9 years later, and turned a club which was 3 million DM in debt into a global player and recognised brand all over the world. Bayern is these days one of the best run clubs in the world and a financial behemoth, second to none in Germany, due to the hard work Hoeness has put in over the years. 21 of Bayern’s 22 Bundesliga titles and all European Cup/Champions League wins have come during Hoeness’s time at the club.

After the verdict the board of Bayern München had a conference call to discuss how they should handle this situation according to numerous media sources. Whilst the board can’t force Hoeness to resign from his offices, it is believed that they’d advise him to do so. Hoeness is going to hold a press conference on Friday according to Bild. It is rumoured that he’ll resign from all of his offices at the club according to the paper.

Reactions from the footballing community

Both DFL president Reinhard Rauball and DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach told the press after the verdict that Hoeness’s merits and his accomplishments which had furthered the standing of German football would be untouched by today’s ruling. Whilst these two men didn’t question ruling, Eintracht Frankfurt’s CEO Heribert Bruchagen told the press that he was upset by today’s proceedings:

“I’m simply just sad, and I do feel really sorry for Uli!”

Hoeness’s former arch nemesis Christoph Daum told SID that he wishes Hoeness and his family well:

“All I’m thinking about is the person Uli Hoeness and his family. I wish them the strength to get through this. They’ll need it to cope with these difficult times.”

German politicians satisfied

Ever since it became public knowledge that Uli Honess had evaded taxes politicians from all parties had taken interest in his case. Bayern’s president had criticised the Social Democrats and the Greens for the tax policies on the German talk show Jauch before he had come clean about his undisclosed banking accounts in Switzerland.

Politicians from both these parties had criticised Hoeness on several occasions before the trial. The Social Democrat’s Joachim Poss went as far as calling the 62-year-old a “symbol of white collar crime”. After the verdict Poss told the media that the judge had taken the right measures. Renate Künast told her Twitter following that a sentence on parole wasn’t a feasible option due to the sums of money which were in play.

Uli Hoeness has had close ties to chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union, but even politicians from that party said they were satisfied with today’s verdict. Christian Democrat and state secretary of the treasury Michael Meister went even as far as stating that this ruling would deter others.

Fans divided

The reactions amongst fans and pundits was divided. Whilst many people aired on the side of the German justice simply having done its job, many fans and pundits were shocked by Hoeness having to do actual jail time. Outside of the court house some of the fans had turned up in support of Bayern’s president, holding up signs suggesting that he should go to jail.

Others commentated that the sentence was far too harsh given the crime. TV expert and former St. Pauli Michel Dinzey told his Twitter followers that he was in disbelieve, because Hoeness would now have to spend time in jail being locked up with murderers, rapist and child molesters.

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A number of fans were simply delighted to see the influential figure going to jail, and some of comments aired on social media were simply gloating at another person’s misfortune. Hoeness has certainly been an unpopular figure amongst many German footballs, due to his power and his sometimes unpopular stances. ‘Your hatred is our pride’ is one of the popular sayings amongst Bayern fans when they are confronted with their club’s unpopularity amongst other fans. Bayern’s president has certainly managed to embody that philosophy over the years in the eyes of many fans.

Others saw the funny side of it and tried to come up with best joke possible regarding Hoeness’s sentence. Already one day ahead of the sentence German comedy Dieter Hallervorden had shared a picture of Twitter telling his followers what he thought would be a just punishment in Hoeness’s case.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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