The tax authorities have detained the coach of the Israel national soccer team, Dror Kashtan, on suspicion that he brought liquor and cigars into the country without announcing them at customs.

Around three weeks ago, Kashtan was detained at customs on his way back from Russia and was found to be carrying a large amount of drinks and cigars. Tax investigators began looking into the coach's earlier trips, including ones with the soccer team, in which he bought goods worth tens of thousands of dollars.

In his interrogation, Kashtan said that any problems were all honest mistakes; to avoid trial, he offered to pay whatever sum he owed to the authorities. Kashtan later declined to comment on the allegations and, in an unusual move, has hired a press adviser to speak on his behalf.

"Kashtan told the interrogators that most purchases over the customs limit were made on trips in which he was not traveling alone," the coach said in a statement.

The chairman of the Israeli soccer association, Avi Luzon, who has confronted Kashtan in the media a number of times in recent weeks, said yesterday he hoped the coach would come out in the clear.

"As long as a man has not been convicted, he is innocent until proven otherwise," Luzon said. "I wish him the best of health, that he comes through, and that the case will be closed as soon as possible."

Kashtan's position as coach is not likely to suffer from the investigation because his contract expires in June. However, if the allegations turn out to be true, the Israel Football Association's legal adviser will have to decide whether to call Kashtan before a tribunal for inappropriate and unethical conduct and for breaking the association's ethics code.

The association's prosecutor cannot try a member or employee before a police or tax-authority investigation is complete. Even if Kashtan does ward off an investigation by paying debts, he still have to face the tribunal.

This would have a precedent. Tamir Cohen, as a member of the junior team, smuggled boxes of cigarettes through customs and was brought before the tribunal and penalized for inappropriate behavior.