Tax evasion accusation: star chef Alfons Schuhbeck risks jail time

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allegations of tax evasion
Star chef Alfons Schuhbeck risks jail time

Alfons Schuhbeck started out as a cook and then built up a real network of companies. He has since filed for bankruptcy – and may even end up in jail. His trial for tax evasion begins Wednesday.

In Alfons Schuhbeck’s “Teatro” in Munich, the star chef is currently dreaming: “In the evening, when the world sinks into a gentle sunset, the time begins to dream in the sparkling Teatro mirror tent,” writes the 73-year-old on the website about the program “Moonia” that is planned there for October. For Schuhbeck himself, however, the month mainly offers a confrontation with the harsh reality: his trial on suspicion of tax evasion in the millions starts today at the regional court of Munich I.

The venue of the event is one with history: room 134 of the Munich Palace of Justice. Eight years ago, someone from the chic crowd of Munich was convicted of tax evasion there. Uli Hoeneß, former FC Bayern Munich chairman, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in 2014 – and even ended up behind bars.

History could repeat itself. According to media reports, the Schuhbeck case involves approximately two million euros in evaded taxes. And according to a 2012 ruling by the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Karlsruhe, there is usually a risk of imprisonment without parole above a million. So if Schuhbeck is convicted of the alleged crimes, jail time is a realistic option.

In 25 cases, the prosecutor has charged him with tax evasion, 18 days of trial are scheduled until December 22. According to media reports, the alleged crime scenes are the “Orlando” and “Südtiroler Stuben” restaurants in Munich. A co-defendant is suspected of complicity. As the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported, it would be a computer specialist who would have developed a program that regularly deleted items from daily income and thus maneuvered past the tax authorities.

“Act instead of react”

For Schuhbeck, the trial is likely to be the low point of his career. He, who actually wanted to be a telecommunications engineer, instead became one of the most famous chefs and restaurateurs in the republic. He has already cooked for the Beatles and Charlie Chaplin, former Chancellor Angela Merkel and Queen Elizabeth II – and time and again for FC Bayern Munich. His name is a brand. He built a network of companies with three restaurants, a catering service, an ice cream parlor and spice shops. The Bavarian, who sees himself as the innovator of Bavarian cuisine, is not only an innkeeper, but also an entrepreneur, author of numerous cookbooks and a frequent guest on television. “I’ve never put my hands on my lap before,” he said three years ago on his 70th birthday. “Whatever the times, you must act rather than react.”

However, three years ago, the investigations of the Munich I public prosecutor’s office into alleged tax evasion against Schuhbeck became known. His business premises were also searched in this context. “I will work very closely and very openly with the authorities to refute all allegations,” the chief said at the time. He “answers the authorities to all questions”. However, shortly before the start of the trial, neither Schuhbeck nor his lawyers declined to comment on the trial.

Last year it was announced that Schuhbeck’s empire was in financial difficulties. He filed for bankruptcy and justified it by the lack of state aid in the wake of the corona pandemic. “Since the fully announced state aid has not reached me to this day, I have to file bankruptcy for my company,” Schuhbeck said at the time, according to a post headlined “The Next Corona Victim”. Schuhbeck announced at the time that until the last he had hoped for financial support from the government and had invested private money in his company. “But now it’s over.”

However, according to information from the Federal Office of Justice (BFJ), Schuhbeck has not published annual reports since 2017, which violates the disclosure obligation. A fine procedure has been started.

In court, Schuhbeck is now concerned not only with his reputation and his professional future, but also with his freedom. Despite this fate, the judiciary named the trial, half humorously, after one of the chef’s favorite ingredients: ginger.

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