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Tax-evading German soccer boss Hoeness starts jail term -lawyer

Reuters

* Confusion about start of term as prosecutor declines comment

* Hoeness evades waiting media and bystanders, uses side door

* Disputes over choice of jail, media tour (Updates with Hoeness's lawyer confirming prison term has started)

By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN, June 2 (Reuters) - Former Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness began a 3-1/2-year jail sentence on Monday, at the same prison where Adolf Hitler dictated "Mein Kampf", after the soccer legend was convicted of evading $40 million in taxes.

The Munich state prosecutor had earlier declined to comment on media reports Hoeness was about to start his prison term, which led journalists and bystanders to gather outside the Landsberg prison to see him arrive.

"Ulrich Hoeness started serving his prison term today at the Landsberg prison following his sentencing," his lawyer said in a statement. His conviction was handed down in March.

Hoeness, 62, arrived through a side entrance to the prison shortly before noon (1000 GMT) in a luxury car while bystanders and media waited at the front gate, German media reported.

Earlier, Bild daily said Hoeness was set to enter the 114-year-old prison housing some 420 inmates including murderers, drug-dealers, and sex offenders. Hitler dictated his book "Mein Kampf" to Rudolf Hess there in 1924 while serving out a sentence for his failed 1923 beer hall putsch.

Once Germany's most famous soccer boss, Hoeness was convicted of evading 28.5 million euros in taxes on income earned in a secret Swiss bank account.

LOW PROFILE

Hoeness had hoped in vain his voluntary disclosure would lead to a suspended sentence and has spent the last three months waiting to begin his term.

State prosecutor Ken Heidenreich declined to comment on the reports that Hoeness was about to begin serving his sentence.

"We will not make any public statement on that," Heidenreich said. "It's not something we would make public anyhow and there will not be any press release at any point."

Hoeness has mostly kept a low profile since his conviction.

A key player in the West German team that won the 1974 World Cup, he resigned as chairman of the supervisory board and president of Bayern Munich after his conviction in one of the most spectacular tax evasion cases in post-war Germany.

His case shocked the nation and prompted thousands of tax dodgers to turn themselves in.

During his 35 years at Bayern Munich, Hoeness turned the club into a perennial powerhouse that dominates the German Bundesliga and won the 2013 Champions League. He also owns a Bavarian sausage factory.

Landsberg prison is about 70 km (45 miles) west of Munich. Prison officials took 160 journalists on a controversial tour inside the prison in March. [ID:nL5N0MS3KQ}

That triggered a political dispute in Bavaria about whether Hoeness's privacy had been violated.

His lawyers then sought to have Hoeness serve his time in a more modern prison due to concerns that other inmates or guards could peddle information or pictures of Hoeness to the media, Focus magazine also reported.

Hoeness said last month he hoped to return to the helm of Bayern Munich after serving his term. With good behaviour he could be released well before the end of his term.

The maximum sentence for tax evasion is 10 years and the prosecutors, citing Hoeness's cooperation, had sought a 5-1/2 year sentence. (writing by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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