MUNICH, Germany - German football legend and boss of powerhouse club Bayern Munich Uli Hoeness went on trial Monday for evading millions of euros in taxes in a case that has captivated the sports-mad nation.
Hoeness, 62, would face a possible jail term if found guilty by the court in the southern city of Munich, which has scheduled a four-day trial with a verdict expected Thursday.
He arrived in court through a back entrance and gave photographers a pained smile at the start of the trial in a courtroom packed with media and other audience members.
He is charged with evading 3.5 million euros (S$6.2 million) in taxes by hiding them in a Swiss bank account, on a total amount of over 33 million euros from 2003 to 2009.
The veteran footballer, who also runs a successful sausage company, has admitted to having hidden money from the German taxman, but says he came clean with authorities by filing a declaration in January last year.
Prosecutors argue that the self-reporting of a Zurich account contained irregularities and is invalid because authorities already had Hoeness in their crosshairs at the time.
Despite widespread criticism of Hoeness - including from Chancellor Angela Merkel who voiced "disappointment" - his initial offer to resign from Bayern Munich last May was rejected by the club's supervisory board.
Hoeness has spent more than four decades with the Bavarian sporting giants - first as player, helping win then West Germany the 1974 World Cup, then as team manager and, since 2009, as club president.
Hoeness traded 'extreme amounts'
Since the scandal broke, Hoeness - long a TV chat show regular outspoken about his conservative political views - has admitted to having been a compulsive stock market "gambler" for years.
He said he received a 20 million deutschmark (10.2 million euro) loan for trading in his Swiss bank account in 2001 from the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, then chief of club supplier and shareholder Adidas.