TAX FRAUD

Supreme Court upholds jail time, fine for Barça star Messi in tax fraud case

The Argentinean soccer player and his father were both given 21-month sentences for a €4.1 million fraud

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

The Supreme Court has ruled that Argentinean soccer star Lionel Messi was responsible for three tax offenses. The tribunal has thus confirmed the 21-month prison sentence that was handed down to him last July by the Barcelona Provincial Court for cheating the Spanish Tax Agency of €4.1 million during the 2007-2009 financial years, after he failed to pay tax on €10.1 million of income for his image rights.

Messi was given seven months in prison for each year he defrauded the Tax Agency

The player’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi, was also given a 21-month jail sentence, but this was reduced to 15 months by the Supreme Court after his son returned the amount defrauded to the Tax Agency. 

The defense for the Barcelona F. C. player had argued that Messi had entrusted his father and his advisors with his business affairs. “I was dedicated to playing soccer,” he told the court at the time. “I trusted my father and the lawyers that we had chosen to deal with our affairs. At no time did I think that they could deceive me.”

The Barcelona court gave Messi and his father seven months in prison for each year he was understood to have defrauded the Tax Agency. He was also slapped with a fine of nearly €2 million. His father, meanwhile, was given a fine of €1.5 million.

The sentence from the Supreme Court also questioned why the player’s advisers had been excluded from the case.

Given that the jail terms are under two years, the Barcelona Provincial Court is likely to suspend the sentences, as is the norm in Spain where there are no prior offenses.

English version by Simon Hunter.