Date
11 December 2017
Lionel Messi (L) attends a Barcelona court with his father Jorge Horacio Messi during their trial for tax fraud. Photo: Reuters
Lionel Messi (L) attends a Barcelona court with his father Jorge Horacio Messi during their trial for tax fraud. Photo: Reuters

Lionel Messi handed 21-month sentence in Spain for tax-fraud

Soccer star Lionel Messi has been sentenced by a Spanish court on Wednesday to 21 months in prison for tax-fraud, but the Barcelona striker is not expected to spend any time behind bars.

A court found Messi and his father, Jorge Messi, guilty of using shell companies in Belize, Uruguay, the UK and Switzerland to avoid paying 4.16 million euros (US$4.63 million) in taxes, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The taxes related to endorsement income the player earned between 2007 and 2009. 

However, the Argentine footballer is unlikely to see the inside of a prison, as under Spanish law any sentence under two years for a non-violent crime rarely requires a defendant without previous convictions to serve jail time.

After prosecutors opened the investigation, Messi and his father paid back the tax they were accused of evading plus interest.

But the court on Wednesday fined Messi about 2 million euro and his father 1.6 million euro.

Spain’s investigation centered on Messi’s father.

But prosecutors argued that there was enough evidence to believe that the player knew about and consented to the creation of a corporate structure to lower his Spanish tax burden on endorsement income, the Journal reported.

In court testimony in June, the younger Messi said he had just followed the directions of his family and financial advisers.

Messi’s father and two of his former tax advisers had also testified that the player never handled his own wealth management.

Lawyers for Messi said they plan to appeal the verdict. 

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