Messi handed 21 months jail term for tax fraud

Daily Trust - - SPORT -

Ar­gentina and Barcelona foot­baller Lionel Messi has been sen­tenced to 21 months in prison for tax fraud.

His fa­ther, Jorge Messi, was also given a jail term for de­fraud­ing Spain of 4.1m (£3.5m; $4.5m) be­tween 2007 and 2009.

They also face mil­lions of eu­ros in fines for us­ing tax havens in Belize and Uruguay to con­ceal earn­ings from im­age rights.

How­ever, nei­ther man is ex­pected to serve time in jail.

Un­der the Span­ish sys­tem, prison terms of un­der two years can be served un­der pro­ba­tion.

The foot­baller and his fa­ther were found guilty of three counts of tax fraud in yes­ter­day’s rul­ing by the court in Barcelona.

As well as the jail terms, Messi was fined about 2m and his fa­ther 1.5m. They made a vol­un­tary 5m “cor­rec­tive pay­ment”, equal to the al­leged un­paid tax plus in­ter­est, in Au­gust 2013.

The sen­tence can be ap­pealed through the Span­ish Supreme Court.

Dur­ing the trial, Lionel Messi in­sisted he “knew noth­ing” about the man­age­ment of his fi­nan­cial af­fairs, say­ing his fa­ther dealt with them while he was “play­ing foot­ball”.

For his part, Jorge Messi claimed he did not have enough knowl­edge to or­ches­trate such a fraud, blam­ing his tax con­sul­tants in­stead.

Lionel Messi re­tired from in­ter­na­tional foot­ball late last month. He has won the FIFA World Player of the Year five times and is one of the rich­est ath­letes in the world.

Lionel Messi

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