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Hoeness sent to 'Mein Kampf' jail in tax evasion crackdown

By Jens Hack

LANDSBERG, Germany (Reuters) - Former Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness, convicted of tax evasion in one of Germany's most spectacular cases of fraud, will spend the next 3-1/2 years in a prison that once housed Adolf Hitler.

Prison officials took 160 journalists on a tour on Monday of the prison 70 km (45 miles) west of Munich, where Hitler dictated "Mein Kampf" to Rudolf Hess after being convicted for his failed 1923 beer hall putsch. Its 420 current inmates include murderers, drug-dealers and sex offenders.

Hoeness, Germany's most famous soccer manager, was convicted on March 16 of evading 28.5 million euros ($39 million) in taxes on income earned in a secret Swiss bank account.

He had hoped his voluntary disclosure of income earned would lead to leniency and a suspended sentence.

Tax evasion is a serious crime in Germany and his case shocked the nation, prompting thousands of tax dodgers to turn themselves in. The maximum sentence is 10 years.

Landsberg prison deputy director Harald Eichinger told reporters that Hoeness, 62, will spend the first two weeks in a larger cell with a cellmate "for medical reasons" to adjust to life behind bars before moving into a single cell.

He is expected to start his jail term in the next few weeks.

Hoeness, who as a star 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 conviction.

During his 35 years at Bayern Munich, Hoeness turned the club into a perennial powerhouse that won last year's Champions League and dominates the German Bundesliga.

He also owns a Bavarian sausage factory.

NO CELL PHONE

Journalists visiting the Landsberg prison saw eight-square- metre (86-square-feet) cells of the type where Hoeness will be locked up. The rooms have just a simple bed, a chair, a closet and toilet.

"There's no exclusive class here," said Franz Roeck, head of enforcement at the prison that was built in 1910 and where some Nazi war criminals were executed after World War Two. A total of 259 criminals were hanged and 29 shot in firing squads at the jail.

Hoeness will be allowed to take just a few personal items with him: his wedding ring, a watch and a few photographs, officials said. But he will have no cell phone and no personal computer.

He can meet visitors twice a month for two hours.

Hoeness must work or spend all day in his cell. He will earn about 11.94 euros per day to help defray the average 98 euros each day that Germany's 11,000 prisoners cost taxpayers. "Those 11.94 euros are tax free," Eichinger pointed out.

Hoeness can choose from a job in the prison's car repair shop, welding shop, printing shop or taking an administrative job. The work day begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m.

Officials said breakfast includes rye bread with jam offered twice a week. Lunch is often noodles with salad. Any one caught taking a second helping faces sanctions, officials said.

While there are tax evaders and white collar criminals at the Landsberg prison, others were convicted of violent crimes. Roeck said the mood among the inmates is relaxed at the moment but officials said there were troubles in the past.

There was a wave of violence against prison guards last year but that abated after the authorities warned that security measures would be tightened if the attacks did not stop.

"The communal rooms are set up so that only prisoners who get along with each other are in one area together," said Eichinger. "That reduces to a minimum the danger of violence."

(Writing by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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