Man arrested in Germany for trying to blackmail disgraced Hoeness

BERLIN Tue May 13, 2014 10:52am EDT

BERLIN May 13 (Reuters) - Police in southern Germany have arrested a man suspected of trying to blackmail the former president of Bayern Munich, Uli Hoeness, who is due to start a jail sentence this month for evading $40 million in tax, police said on Tuesday.

Police near Munich arrested the 50-year-old man who fell off his bicycle while trying to escape on Saturday evening.

He is suspected of wanting to collect more than 100,000 euros in exchange for guaranteeing Hoeness would not encounter any "trouble" while in prison.

Hoeness, whose trial and fall from grace has stunned Germany, received a letter on Saturday saying the sender could influence the ex-soccer president's stay in jail.

"In the blackmail letter Mr Hoeness is threatened with major difficulties during his forthcoming jail term," said the police, adding the sender said he would make the problems go away if Hoeness paid a six-digit sum.

Prosecutors are holding the man on suspicion of attempted blackmail.

At the weekend, Hoeness's lawyers filed a protest about plans to send the 62-year old to a prison in Landsberg because of fears about his safety and privacy. A magazine reported he was worried that guards or fellow inmates could peddle information or pictures to the media.

Hoeness was convicted in March of tax evasion in one of the most dramatic cases of fraud in German history. He was sentenced to 3-1/2 years in Landsberg, the prison which once held Adolf Hitler.

One of Germany's most famous soccer general managers, Hoeness was convicted of evading 28.5 million euros in taxes on income earned in a secret Swiss bank account. He is due to start his term in late May.

Hoeness, who as a player helped West Germany win the 1974 World Cup, resigned as chairman of the supervisory board and president of Bayern Munich a day after his convicion. Over 35 years, he helped to turn Bayern Munich into a club that dominates Germany's Bundesliga. He also owns a sausage factory. (Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Stephen Brown and Angus MacSwan)

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