Lionel Messi and his father sentenced for tax fraud

A court in Catalonia convicts Barcelona footballer star Lionel Messi and his father Jorge to 21 months for tax evasion.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Barcelona's Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi (L) sits in court with his father Jorge Horacio Messi during their trial for tax fraud in Barcelona, Spain, June 2, 2016.

FC Barcelona soccer star Lionel Messi and his father were sentenced on Wednesday to 21 months in prison on three counts of tax fraud in Spain.

A court in Barcelona also fined Messi around $2.21m (€2m).

Messi's father Jorge was also given a jail term for defrauding Spain of $4.5m (€4.1m) between 2007 and 2009.

He was fined $1.66m (€1.5m).

The two are also facing millions of euros in fines for using tax gaps in Belize and Uruguay to conceal earnings from image rights.

Under Spanish rules, a person who has been sentenced to less than two years in jail can serve the term under probation, if they have no prior criminal record. Like this, they can avoid prison.

The picture shows Lionel Messi during a FC Barcelona match. [AP]

During the trial, the 29-year-old, who is among the world’s highest-earning athletes, said that he “knew nothing” about the management of his money issues.

“I was playing football. I had no idea about anything. I trusted my dad and my lawyers,” he said in court last month.

The court stated the decision could be appealed to the Spanish supreme court.

Both Messi and his father are expected to avoid serving time in prison.

Messi was also mentioned in the Panama Papers case, which includes 11.5 million leaked documents that include details of financial and attorney–client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities.

TRTWorld and agencies