Steffi distances herself from sins of her father

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The Independent Online
Steffi Graf's father was sentenced to jail for three years yesterday for tax evasion, but the judge declared that the tennis star was innocent. A court in Mannheim, southern Germany, ruled that "no active participation by Steffi Graf" in the withholding of 19.2m German marks (pounds 7.1m) from the state could be established.

Ms Graf used to be inseparable from her father-cum-coach-cum-manager. Now, however, she appears to have little desire for a reunion.

Yesterday she heard the news in Melbourne, where she had been convalescing from injury, and boarded the first aircraft bound for Tokyo.

Peter Graf was given a total of three years and nine months. Although the public prosecutor is appealing against the sentence, the verdict is likely to remain unchallenged, ending the tennis star's two- year ordeal.

But Mr Graf's debt to society should be cleared by the end of the year, as he spent 16 months in custody before being released on bail last year. Taking that into consideration, he will be up for parole in just over seven months.

He can expect leniency from a court which has been deeply impressed with his reforming ways. Mr Graf, 58, has given up drink and drugs, and is no longer consorting with prostitutes.

He was not really an evil man, the judges conceded, but more of a fool. "Graf did not want to delegate," said Joachim Plass, the judge. "He wanted to keep things in his own hands. He wanted to be better than renowned experts."

That he wasn't is obvious from his hare-brained schemes to hide Ms Graf's earnings by stuffing them in bags and sending them on a tour of exotic off-shore destinations. His companies in the Netherlands and the Dutch Antilles were transparent tax-dodges.

Germany may be prepared to forgive the sins of the father. His family, it seems, will not.

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