Robert "Evel" Knievel and his wife owe the U.S. government more than $5.3 million in taxes and penalties for the years 1972-76, a federal judge says.

Papers filed by the government in October 1987 said the Knievels were $4.8 million in arrears in taxes, interest and penalties.U.S. District Judge Paul Hatfield of Great Falls, Mont., took the case last December after the Knievels failed within alloted time to file an answer to a motion for a summary judgment, and he approved it last week.

Hatfield said in January that the Knievels' "lack of response is deemed an admission that, in the opinion of counsel for the defendants, the motion is 1Gwell taken."

The government first sued the former motorcycle stuntman and his wife, Linda, for income tax liabilities in December 1983. Attempts to negotiate a settlement failed and the government sought the judgment in federal court.