Ron­aldo de­nies tax fraud at court hear­ing

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE - — AFP

Real Madrid striker Cris­tiano Ron­aldo de­nied hid­ing mil­lions of eu­ros in in­come at a court hear­ing near Madrid yes­ter­day where he was charged with tax eva­sion, the lat­est foot­baller star to fall foul of Spain’s tax­man. The Por­tuguese-the world’s high­est paid sports­man ac­cord­ing to Forbes mag­a­zine-fol­lows in the steps of his arch-ri­val, Barcelona for­ward Lionel Messi, who was found guilty of the same of­fence last year.

“I have never hid­den any­thing, nor have I had the in­ten­tion of evad­ing taxes,” Ron­aldo, 32, told the court, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the sports agency which rep­re­sents him, Ges­ti­fute. “I al­ways vol­un­tar­ily file my tax re­turns be­cause I think we all must file a re­turn and pay taxes ac­cord­ing to our in­come. Those that know me, know what I ask my ad­vi­sors: that they have ev­ery­thing up to date and prop­erly paid, be­cause I don’t want prob­lems.” Ac­cused of hav­ing evaded 14.7 mil­lion eu­ros ($17.3 mil­lion) in tax, he en­tered and left the court in Pozuelo de Alar­con, a wealthy sub­urb of Madrid where he lives, via an un­der­ground garage to avoid the press.

Pros­e­cu­tors al­lege he took “ad­van­tage of a com­pany struc­ture cre­ated in 2010 to hide in­come gen­er­ated in Spain from his im­age rights from tax au­thor­i­ties”. They say this was a “vol­un­tary and con­scious breach of his fis­cal obli­ga­tions in Spain”. Pros­e­cu­tors ac­cuse the four-time world player of the year of evad­ing tax via a shell com­pany based in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands and another in Ire­land, known for low cor­po­rate tax rates. In ad­di­tion, they say the Real Madrid striker only de­clared 11.5 mil­lion eu­ros of Span­ishre­lated in­come from 2011 to 2014, while what he re­ally earned dur­ing that time was close to 43 mil­lion eu­ros. They also ac­cuse him of “vol­un­tar­ily” re­fus­ing to in­clude 28.4 mil­lion eu­ros in in­come linked to the sale of his im­age rights for the 2015 to 2020 pe­riod to a Span­ish com­pany.

‘LE­GAL AND LE­GIT­I­MATE’

Ron­aldo told the court he did not cre­ate a “special struc­ture” to man­age his im­age rights when he moved to Real in 2009 but sim­ply main­tained the one set up in 2004 while he was at Manch­ester United “long be­fore I thought of com­ing to Spain”.

This struc­ture had been deemed “le­gal and le­git­i­mate” by the Bri­tish tax of­fice. The af­fair has taken its toll on Ron­aldo. Ac­cord­ing to press re­ports, Real’s all­time top goalscorer, threat­ened to leave Spain over the af­fair, giv­ing sup­port­ers a fright. He has since de­cided to stay on, ac­cord­ing to Real coach Zine­dine Zi­dane. If he were put on trial and found guilty, Ron­aldo would risk “a fine of at least 28 mil­lion” eu­ros and could po­ten­tially be jailed for three-and-a-half years, the Gestha union of ex­perts at Spain’s In­land Rev­enue has said.

Since ex­tend­ing his con­tract last Novem­ber un­til 2021, Ron­aldo is the high­est paid sports star in the world with $93 mil­lion earned in 2016-2017, ac­cord­ing to Forbes. Ron­aldo is not the only foot­baller to fall foul of au­thor­i­ties in Spain, which is only just re­cov­er­ing from a dam­ag­ing eco­nomic cri­sis that saw count­less peo­ple lose their jobs and in­equal­i­ties rise. Messi was sen­tenced to a 21-month jail sen­tence and 2.09-mil­lion-euro fine last year for tax fraud.

His prison sen­tence has since been re­placed by another fine of 252,000 eu­ros, which cor­re­sponds to 400 eu­ros for each day of jail. Barcelona’s Ar­gen­tine de­fender Javier Mascher­ano, mean­while, agreed a one-year sus­pended sen­tence with au­thor­i­ties for tax fraud last year.

Brazil star Neymar, another Barcelona for­ward, and his par­ents are also due to stand trial for al­leged cor­rup­tion over his trans­fer from San­tos in 2013. Real have not been spared ei­ther.

Apart from Ron­aldo, for­mer player An­gel di Maria, Por­tuguese de­fender Fabio Coen­trao and Jose Mourinho, who coached the club from 2010 to 2013, have all been ac­cused of tax fraud. All are clients of su­per-agent Jorge Men­des, who was also ques­tioned and put un­der of­fi­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion last month by a Span­ish court in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­leged tax eva­sion by Monaco striker Radamel Fal­cao, another foot­baller in his sta­ble.

— AFP

MADRID: Me­dia wait for Real Madrid’s Por­tuguese for­ward Cris­tiano Ron­aldo to hold a press point af­ter ap­pear­ing be­fore a court in Pozuelo de Alar­con, a wealthy sub­urb of Madrid, yes­ter­day to an­swer on four counts of tax eva­sion of 14.7 mil­lion euro ($16.5m).

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