Messi and his father sentenced to 21 months in prison for alleged fiscal fraud
FC Barcelona’s Player, Lionel Messi, and his father Jorge have been sentenced to 21 months in prison after Barcelona’s High Court found them guilty of three counts of tax evasion. The court also ordered the football star to pay a fine of more than 2 MEUR and his father to pay 1.5MEUR. However, as the sentence is under two years, it is unlikely that Messi and his father end up in prison, especially ifthere is no prior criminal report. Moreover, the Court’s decision is not definitive and can still be appealed before Spain's Supreme Court. Messi and his father are accused of having moved 4.1m EUR earned from the player’s image rights to tax havens between 2007 and 2009.
Barcelona (CNA).- Barcelona’s High Court has sentenced Leo Messi and his father to 21 months in prison for having allegedly moved 4.1m EUR earned from the player’s image rights to tax havens between 2007 and 2009. In his statement last June, Messi assured that his life was “limited to playing football” and that he had “full confidence” in his father and the lawyers who managed his publicity contracts. However, the court found him and his father Jorge guilty of three counts of tax evasion and also ordered the football star to pay a fine of more than 2 MEUR and his father to pay 1.5MEUR. Nevertheless, sinceneither Lionel nor Jorge have a criminal record, they won’t be required to serve any prison time. Moreover, the sentence can still be appealed before Spain's Supreme Court.
Leo Messi and his father are suspected of using companies abroad - in Belize and Uruguay - to sell the rights to use Messi's image. The contracts were signed with FC Barcelona and sponsors such as Adidas, Pepsi, Konami, Procter & Gamble, Danone, Telefonica and Banc Sabadell, besides companies from countries such as Qatar and Kuwait, amongst others.
Thus, it is claimed that Messi had a gross revenue of 2.57m EUR in 2007, which he allegedly hid from the Spanish authorities, and which represented a 1.06m EUR tax loss for the Spanish Tax Agency. In 2008, it is alleged that he earned 3.84m EUR and evaded 1.58m EUR in taxes and in the following year allegedly earned 3.8m EUR and denied the Spanish Authorities of 1.53m EUR in taxes.
Court accusses Messi of “avoidable ignorance” of his duties
Summing up the case, the presiding judge, Mercedes Armas Galve, considered that the football player’s “avoidable ignorance, which was derived from indifference, is not an error, and it does not remove responsibility”.
“The information that the accused avoided having was, in reality, within his reach via trustworthy and accessible sources”, the Court concluded.
Messi: “I trusted my father”
During the four-day hearing into the case, which concluded on June 3, Messi insisted he had “never” discussed tax on his image rights with his father or lawyers.
“So, you signed all contracts with your eyes shut?” the district attorney asked him.
“I signed them because I trust my father and it never entered my head that he would try to cheat me,” Messi replied.
FC Barcelona express his support to Messi
Messi was given the full backing of Barca, who said in a statement: “FC Barcelona gives all its support to Leo Messi and his father with relation to the sentence for tax evasion handed out by the provisional court in Barcelona”.
The club “in agreement with the government prosecution service” considers that the player, “who has corrected his position with the Spanish tax office, is in no way criminally responsible with regards to the facts underlined in this case”
“FC Barcelona continues to be at the disposal of Leo Messi and his family to support him in whatever action he decides to take in defence of his honesty and his legal interests.”