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The case Uli Hoeneß

Posted by | Evil Kristos | March 14, 2014 | No Comments

Despite being at the brink of a war right in our neighborhood, German media headlines are being dominated by something – let’s face it – completely irrelevant. Uli Hoeneß, president of FC Bayern Munich, one of the best football clubs in the world, was sentenced to 3,5 years in prison for tax evasion.

Hoeneß was for many years one of the most influential public figures in Germany. On one hand he was a successful business man but even more important the driving force behind the overwhelming success of Germanys biggest name in football. And unlike many other European teams Bayern Munich did not become successful by being pampered with investor money. The club developed from a successful German club to an international super power by being cleverly managed and making sound decisions, where and when to spend money. All this thanks to Uli Hoeneß.

During this time Hoeneß as manager in Munich always polarized. He lectured, argued and bragged. He made many enemies but – and this is important to understand – was seen by many as a moral authority. He also publicly ranted against high income taxes in Germany, stating that most rich people would evade them by going to Austria and Switzerland. And that’s an option lower incomes do not have.

At the same time he pointed out that he himself didn’t. Irony? It’s not that simple. Unlike many of his peers he did pay his income tax in Germany. Tax evasion otherwise is a sport in Germany and quite a few public figures got caught when German tax offices started buying – the in itself illegally copied – CDs with bank records from tax havens like Switzerland. The most famous “victims” were women’s rights activist Alice Schwarza and former boss of Deutsche Post Klaus Zumwinkel. Unlike Uli they managed to manufacture an amended return before they officially got caught. So they got away with a fine. Uli Hoeneß was the first one prominent figure sentenced to jail.

The majority of Germans are quite pleased with this sentence. Finally a rich and famous person must face the consequences of his actions. It’s one way to look at this but quite frankly, I think they are wrong. I believe the sentence doesn’t do Uli Hoeneß justice.

A short recap of what this was all about: Last year Uli approached the tax office with an amended return. Initially it was thought he owed 3,5 million Euro to the tax office. This amount went up to 28 million during the 4 day trial. Others did pretty much the same and got away with it. Of course, the fact that the sum he owed went up significantly did not work in his favor. And 28 million Euro sounds like a lot of money. One could suspect criminal energy here. If you look at the details though, you will discover that it isn’t as bad as it looks.

Roughly ten years ago he parked some play money in Switzerland. I wouldn’t be surprised if his tax advisor encouraged him to do so. This money was earned and taxed though. Also he got some money from a “friend”. I am not sure what the status of that money is but it wasn’t an insane amount of money.

Uli started to play the stock market and – you can guess it – was very successful at first. At some stage he had almost 200 million in this account. Then, after 2005 he basically lost it all. The court case is about the money he made with investments before 2005! That he lost it afterwards was irrelevant. That he paid the insanely high German income tax on the millions he made in Germany by being a successful business man … irrelevant.

The court decided that Uli Hoeneß evaded tax. This he admitted from the start anyways. That the court sentenced him to 3,5 years in prison he probably did not expect beforehand and quite frankly; it seems very harsh. To me it looks like the judge wanted to make an example of him.

It certainly didn’t help that Uli previously ranted against colleagues and peers who broke the rules. In German there is an expression, when you lean too far out of the window. He did just that on many occasions. With his blustering in the past he opened himself wide up for retribution. Many people must have waited for a moment like this. I never particularly liked Uli Hoeneß but this looks like a raw deal. Sending him to jail is a bit too much for my liking.

He today announced that he will accept the sentence and step down as president of FC Bayern. I feel very sorry for him. I believe that prison should be reserved for criminals who hurt people. We have seen court rulings were people died and the person responsible got away with less than Mr. Hoeneß. That’s not right. While the whole republic is bashing him now there is at least a few people who feel, that this no way to thank a person who did an awful lot of good in his life and made one error of judgment a few years ago.

Shame on you people, that you are celebrating the court’s decision. Not having a chance to cheat on your taxes is different from making a conscious decision. I guess most of the people now stating that Uli got what he deserved, would do the same or even did so in the past. Who doesn’t try to get money back from the tax man. And I don’t even think this applies to Uli Hoeneß. He was probably just being stupid and thought, since there was no real gain in the long run, he is not obliged to pay for the profits he made at some stage. He certainly is not a bad person. He should be punished but I don’t think sending him to jail is appropriate.


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