Guus Hiddink convicted and fined for tax evasion

Former Netherlands coach Guus Hiddink was convicted of tax evasion Tuesday, fined EUR45,000 (US$60,000) and given a six-month suspended prison sentence. He will not serve any time behind bars.

Hiddink, currently coach of the Russia's national team, was not in court for the ruling.

Prosecutors had sought a 10-month prison sentence, but judges at a court in the central city of Den Bosch said there were mitigating factors, including damage already done to Hiddink's reputation by publicity surrounding the case.

According to prosecutors, Hiddink evaded paying EUR1.4 million (US$1.8 million) in Dutch taxes by claiming a tax home in Belgium when he was actually living in Eindhoven in 2002-2003.

Judges cleared Hiddink of wrongdoing in 2002 but convicted him of a false tax filing from January to August 2003.

"Mr. Hiddink said he was very happy with the acquittal for 2002, not happy at all about the suspended sentence for 2003," Hiddink's lawyer, Jan Leliveld, told reporters outside the court.

He said he would consider an appeal after studying the ruling.

Prosecutor Ria Huisman said she was "in principle satisfied" with the verdict but would also study the judgment before deciding whether to appeal.

Hiddink had argued that he owned a home in Belgium and had intended to live there when he returned from coaching South Korea to a surprise World Cup semifinal spot in 2002. He only later realized that he would be living in the Netherlands, while he coached at PSV Eindhoven, close to the Belgian border.

"Judges thought that was credible," court spokeswoman Lieneke de Klerk said.

The court said it was "highly regrettable" that Hiddink did not declare that he lived in the Netherlands in his 2003 tax filing.

However, the court took into account Hiddink's clean criminal record and the fact that he "has been exposed to a high degree of defamatory reporting" linked to the case, reports AP.

Before coaching South Korea, Hiddink guided the Dutch national team to the World Cup semifinals in 1998. He coached Australia at last year's World Cup before taking the Russia job.

Hiddink's Russia team is second in Euro 2008 qualifying Group E, with eight points from four matches. Croatia leads the group with 10 points from its four matches. Russia's next Euro 2008 match is March 24 at Estonia.

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