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Bayern Munich chief admits 'grave mistake' over tax

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Bayern Munich's president Uli Hoeness, at the centre of tax evasion allegations that have become a political football in election-year Germany, has admitted to "a grave mistake", in comments published Tuesday.

The 61-year-old president of Germany's most successful club admitted in a weekend media report to having turned himself in to authorities in January over unpaid taxes on cash in a Swiss bank account.

While Chancellor Angela Merkel has distanced herself from Hoeness, centre-left opposition politicians have seized on the case, charging that her conservative government is letting tax cheats off the hook.

Hoeness told Wednesday's edition of the Sport Bild weekly: "I have realised that I made a grave mistake, for which I am trying to at least partially make amends by voluntarily turning myself in.

"I want to clear the air. The law offers that possibility."

Hoeness had originally planned to come forward after an expected German-Swiss tax accord which would have allowed him to settle the matter anonymously with a one-off payment, he earlier told Focus news weekly.

But Germany's opposition -- which will seek to dethrone Merkel in a September election -- torpedoed the measure late last year on the grounds that it unfairly offered criminal amnesty to tax dodgers.

The Social Democrats (SPD) chief Sigmar Gabriel said Monday the case "shows how right it was for the SPD and Greens to block the Swiss taxation agreement, with which Merkel and (Finance Minister Wolfgang) Schaeuble want to cover up multi-million euro tax evasion."

The amount of money Hoeness, who also draws income from a successful sausage company, has stashed in the Swiss account, and the taxes owed, were unclear as he and prosecutors have stayed quiet on the details.

The newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported without citing sources that Hoeness had already paid nearly six million euros ($7.8 million) in back taxes.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130423/bayern-munich-chief-admits-grave-mistake-over-tax