The door of the black van slid open, and out stepped Cristiano Ronaldo, arm-in-arm with his girlfriend, Georgina Rodríguez. The sky was gray and the Madrid air was bitingly cold, but the star soccer player didn’t take off his sunglasses nor did he stop smiling for the cameras for even a moment. Around 50 journalists were waiting for him as he approached the doors of the Madrid High Court.
The former Real Madrid striker, who now plays for Italian side Juventus, was at the courthouse on Tuesday morning to sign his sentence in the presence of a judge. He has been given a 23-month jail sentence and an €18.8 million fine after reaching a deal with the public prosecutor and the Tax Agency, having admitted committing four tax offenses between the years of 2011 and 2014.
Also at the courthouse on Tuesday morning was Xabi Alonso, a former teammate of Ronaldo’s at Real Madrid
First offenders in Spain who receive less than two years in jail nearly always see their sentences suspended, meaning that Ronaldo will not be going anywhere near a prison cell.
“That’s done, that’s done,” the Portuguese player said as he left the court, after the half-hour administrative procedure.
Also at the courthouse on Tuesday morning was Xabi Alonso, a former teammate of Ronaldo’s at Real Madrid. He was also there to settle a case of alleged tax fraud.
Alonso has opted not to reach a deal with the public prosecutor, which is calling for a five-year prison sentence for tax crimes committed between 2010 and 2012. The Basque player is the only one from a long list of soccer stars who in recent years have been accused of tax fraud to opt for a bench trial to defend his innocence.
The process will not, however, be a speedy one. A judge who was due to rule on Alonso’s case has suspended the trial, given doubts over whether 2012 legal reforms mean that the regional High Court has the powers to try him, or whether a lower court should take the case.
Ronaldo has been the focus of legal and media attention since he broke off negotiations to re-sign with Real Madrid in 2017
“If I have the conviction and the confidence that I have done everything properly, that I have collaborated from the start and that I have never hidden anything, I have to defend myself and trust in the justice system,” Alonso told reporters on Tuesday morning. “That’s why I have got this far, and I’m going to carry on until the end.
For his part, Cristiano Ronaldo has been the focus of legal and media attention since he broke off negotiations to re-sign with Real Madrid in 2017. As well as his tax woes, he has also been accused of rape, in a case that dates back to 2009 and allegedly took place in Las Vegas, in the United States.
As he entered the courtroom this morning, he stopped to sign a single autograph, and when asked by a bystander how he was, replied: “Perfect.”
In the case against him, Ronaldo initially denied any wrongdoing, saying that he had “never” hidden anything, and that he “had no intention of avoiding taxes.” But on the advice of his consultants, he ended up accepting the facts of the case against him.
The prosecutor believes Ronaldo took advantage of a web of companies aimed at hiding the income generated from his image rights
The public prosecutor initially accused Ronaldo of fraud worth €14.7 million, but after the deal with the soccer player this figure was lowered to €5.7 million. He will eventually have to pay €19 million, thanks to interest and fines.
Other players that have had to do deals with the Spanish courts over tax fraud include Luka Modric, Marcelo, Radamel Falcao, Ángel Di María and Javier Mascherano.
The prosecutor believes that the Portuguese player took advantage of a web of companies created in 2010 aimed at hiding the income generated in Spain from his image rights. It also alleges that Ronaldo filed a tax return in 2014 in which he declared €11.5 million of income earned between 2011 and 2014, when the real figure was closer to €43 million.
English version by Simon Hunter.