- Barcelona superstar also ordered to pay a fine of £1.7m for the crimes
- But the sentences can be appealed through the country’s Supreme Court
- In Spain a prison sentence under two years can be served under probation
Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has been sentenced to 21 months in jail and fined £1.7million over tax charges, it has emerged.
A Spanish court found the 29-year-old Argentina striker and his father Jorge guilty of three counts of tax fraud.
In a statement, the court said their sentences can be appealed through the country’s Supreme Court.
However, under Spanish law a prison sentence under two years can be served under probation, meaning Messi and his father are unlikely to go to prison. The court ordered Messi to pay a fine of around 2 million euros (£1.7million) and his father to pay 1.5 million euros for the crimes.
The long-running case relates to a scheme to avoid paying £3.4m of tax on Lionel Messi’s image rights.
Last month, Messi denied having any knowledge of tax issues that sparked fraud charges against him as he gave evidence in court.
The striker had arrived at the city court with his father Jorge to jeers of ‘Thief!’.
One onlooker shouted ‘Go and play in Panama!’ – a reference to the recent Panama Papers leak which saw thousands of documents released relating to off-shore tax havens.
Messi, one of the world’s highest-paid athletes, and his father were accused of using a chain of fake companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid paying takes on 4.16 million euros (£3.2million) of the footballer’s income earned through the sale of his image rights from 2007-09.
But he told the court he had signed documents without reading them because he trusted his father and the advisers responsible for managing his finances.
Speaking for less than 15 minutes, he said he never suspected of any wrongdoing when his father would ask him to sign contracts or documents.
Messi is the latest high-profile player to have to deal with Spain’s tough tax system. Neymar, Javier Mascherano, Adriano and Xabi Alonso also were targeted by authorities recently.
Culled from Daily Mail