Barcelona FC and Argentina footballer Lionel Messi given 21 months for tax fraud and fined £1.7m in Spain.Barcelona’s Lionel Messi sentenced to 21 months in jail and fined £1.7m over tax charges. Lionel Messi and his father Jorge Messi handed 21 month prison term.
The striker generally considered the best in the world is unlikely to face any time in jail because a term under two years for a non-violent offence usually results in a period of probation under Spanish law.
The court in Barcelona found the Argentina player and his father, who handles his financial affairs, guilty of three offences. Jorge Messi was also handed a 21 month prison term and fine of €1.5m (£1.28m). He and his son, who is understood to earn £26m in annual salary under his current club contract alone and said to be worth at least £240m, were told they had the right to appeal. They were accused of using tax havens in Uruguay and Belize to hide more than £3m in image rights earnings from Spanish tax authorities.
The 29-year old told his trial he knew nothing of how his money was managed and admitted signing documents without reading them. He told the court last month: “The truth is no, the truth is no, I didn’t know. As my dad explained earlier I just dedicated myself to playing football, I put my trust in my father, in the lawyers who had decided to manage this thing.” Messi’s lawyers said he had never examined contracts between 2007 and 2009 which dealt with income from image rights with companies including Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Danone, Procter and Gamble, Banco Sabadell and the Kuwait Food Company.
He made a voluntary payment of £3.8m in August 2013 to cover unpaid tax and interest.