Eto’o in court over alleged multi-million tax fraud

Highest-paid player in world soccer stands accused of failing to report earnings

Samuel Eto'o with his current club, Anzhi Makhachkala.
Samuel Eto'o with his current club, Anzhi Makhachkala. PETER KLAUNZER (EFE)

Former Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o, currently the highest-paid player in the world at Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala, is being investigated by tax inspectors for allegedly defrauding 3.5 million euros that he earned between 2006 and 2009 for ceding his image rights to the club and sports clothing firm Puma.

The Cameroon striker on Tuesday placed the blame squarely at the door of his former right-hand man, Josep Maria Mesalles. Speaking before the investigating judge, Eto'o said that he simply "played soccer" and that Mesalles was responsible for managing his accounts and paying taxes. "He was like a father to me," said the player of his former lawyer and friend. Now, there is open war.

Prosecutors have brought lawsuits against Eto'o and Mesalles, while the former has also launched a private action against the latter.

Prosecutors believe that Eto'o received "substantial amounts" that should have been declared as "capital yields from employment." During the three-year period being investigated, Eto'o's lawyers say that he paid 20 million euros in taxes. It is therefore illogical, says Josep Riba, one of his representatives, that he would have bothered to attempt to defraud a fraction of that amount.

But tax inspectors say that Eto'o "faked" the cession of his image rights to two companies — one Spanish and one Hungarian — to "fraudulently reduce" his taxes. They also state that Eto'o charged large sums of personal expenses to the companies.

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