TAX FRAUD

Barça star Messi given 21-month jail sentence for tax fraud

The Argentinean soccer player and his father were accused of hiding €4.1 million from the Spanish Tax Agency

Messi leaves court after being questioned by the judge.
Messi leaves court after being questioned by the judge.MASSIMILIANO MINOCRI

The Barcelona Provincial Court has sentenced Barcelona soccer star Leo Messi to 21 months in jail for tax fraud. The Argentinean’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi, has also been given the same sentence.

The pair were accused of hiding €4.1 million from the Spanish Tax Agency via a web of companies set up in tax havens. The scheme allowed the player to avoid declaring his income from image rights, which amounted to €10.1 million between 2007 and 2009, and thus avoid paying taxes on this sum in Spain.

The pair were accused of hiding €4.1m from the Tax Agency via a web of companies set up in tax havens

The solicitor general’s office had asked for 22 months and 15 days for both of the accused, whereas the public prosecutor opted for 18 months for the father only, whom they accused of playing a key role in the creation of the companies in question.

Both were eventually found guilty of three tax offenses. Messi will also have to pay a fine of €2,093,001.55, and his father, €1,596,939.93.

Given that Messi has no prior convictions, and the sentence is under 24 months, the player and his father are unlikely to see the inside of a jail cell. However, there have been exceptions to this rule, such as when the Málaga Provincial Court sent Spanish singer Isabel Pantoja to jail, after she was given a two-year sentence for her involvement in a far-reaching corruption investigation in the southern city.

During the trial, the defense for Messi argued that he is simply “a soccer player,” who was only interested in the game. The world of finance was alien to him, his lawyers claimed. With these arguments, his legal team were confident that he would escape the trial without paying the penalty he is now facing.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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