Bayern trio embroiled in legal issues

Posted by Susie Schaaf

With Monday's huge Pep Guardiola press conference just around the corner -- broadcast live on FCB.tv (no subscription necessary) -- still not everything is roses and champagne in the Bayern Munich camp. A Brazilian defender, a worldwide superstar and the president of the club are in various stages of legal issues -- all relatively serious -- that could change or undermine how the world views Bayern Munich.

Breno was arrested and charged with arson last year after his house in Munich's Grunwald district burned to the ground the day the Brazilian defender learned he would need additional surgery on a knee injury that he spent large parts of two seasons trying to recover from.

Depressed with his lot, perhaps mentally not fit, and never fully integrating with Bayern, he was sentenced last July to a three-year prison term. Bayern Munich, however stood by their man, offering legal assistance to him and living assistance to his wife, Renata, and their children.

His exemplary behavior the first year of his sentence has now earned him possible day release, and potentially allow him to train again. Michael Stumpf, head of the prison, spoke to Welt: "We are in contact with the club. Once all talks have been concluded, then we will have to see if anything can come of it. Bayern could well be a future employer."

While Bild intimates that his position would be in the Fan Shop or "as a kind of coach", he might still be allowed to train with FC Bayern II or one of the Youth squads-- time permitting.

Sao Paulo currently has Breno under contract until 2015, and it would be a magnificent gesture on the part of Bayern to send him home -- as he is facing deportation after his sentence -- fully fit and ready to play football.

Franck Ribery, recently voted as Bundesliga's Player of the Year, always knew he was going to go back to court -- along with France teammate Karim Benzema -- over the Zahia Dehar underage prostitution case. And indeed, the date must have loomed large in his mind during the unprecedented season treble-winning Bayern just completed.

Dehar shopped the two to French authoritites who were investigating a crime ring, saying that the married Ribery paid 800 euros for sex with her back in 2009, and Benzema 500 euros in 2008. While Benzema has never admitted to having sex with Dehar, Ribery did, but said he thought she was 18.

While 18 is the legal age for prostitution, the age of consent in France is 15. And this point is being used by Ribery's attorney Carlo-Alberto Bruso to muddy the waters a bit. While both could face up to three years in jail if convicted, the court has decided to adjourn until January while the laws regarding underage prostitution are now being reviewed.

While Benzema reportedly was upset this wasn't the conclusion of the whole embarrassing scandal -- now three years old -- it only bodes well for the two for this case to drag out. If anything, they'll both only likely see fines.

UIi Hoeness, long known for his generosity towards his Bayern Munich family and fellow Bundesliga clubs in trouble, is perhaps facing the most serious consequences of this embroiled Bayern trio. Or is he?

Coming clean on a Swiss bank account, paying a reported three million euros in back taxes, and turning himself in to be arrested; he threw himself on the mercy of the German government and the court of public opinion.

And got slaughtered.

"Many people in Germany are now disappointed in Uli Hoeness,” German chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said at a news conference. “The chancellor is one of those people.” Ouch.

Of course, political aspirations come in to play here as Merkel is up for re-election, but across Germany he's been labelled a Judas. He preaches financial responsibility for football clubs across Europe, while his personal finances leave, admittedly, something to be desired.

But, while there were wholesale calls across Europe for Hoeness to step down as president of Bayern, the board stuck with him -- a board that includes the chiefs of Deutsche Telekom, adidas and Audi. So, what do they know that we don't? Well, for one, no charges have been filed.

Earlier this week, I was at a dinner filled with all the financial heavy hitters in Munich. (Don't ask how I got there.) At the table, when it was announced that I write about Bayern for this site, the talk quickly changed from things I have little understanding of to things I probably know a little bit about. And as I posed the question, "Do you think Uli should step down?" I was met with "No" across the board.

As one who didn't want to see him go, but thought from the information I knew that he probably must, I was admittedly surprised. "These are all financial guys," I thought, and out loud said, "Why?" And there began a torrent of overwhelming -- and highly proprietary -- information that addressed German tax laws themselves, how he could fight charges successfully if it comes to that, and random comments about the system. "Do you really think the government is going to break Uli down and put his 100 employees [from his factory] on the dole?"

I left that dinner with a changed heart. While I never wanted to see him step down as president of Bayern Munich, it now seems possible to me that he might be able to retain his position. It would be another stroke of luck -- in a very long list of lucky things -- to befall Uli Hoeness. And Bayern Munich.

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