Argentina and Barcelona soccer player Lionel Messi was found guilty of tax evasion in Spain.
The superstar player and his father, Jorge Messi, were accused of evading more than €4 million in tax payments between 2007 and 2009. Messi and his father were found guilty of three counts of tax fraud in Wednesday’s ruling by a Barcelona court. Messi was also fined €2 million and his father €1.5 million. They also made a voluntary €5 million “corrective payment,” equal to the alleged unpaid tax plus interest, in August 2013. The two also face millions of fines for fleeing to tax havens like Belize and Uruguay in an effort to conceal earnings from various image rights.
During the trial Messi pleaded innocent to the crime, and insisted he “knew nothing” as his father handled his finances while he focused on “playing football.” Jorge Messi claimed he didn’t have the knowledge to orchestrate a fraud of this magnitude and blamed his tax consultants instead. Under Spanish law, any prison sentence under two years can be served with probation, thus making it very unlikely that Messi and his father will be serving any time in prison.
Lionel Messi, one of the richest and most celebrated athletes in the world, recently retired from international football last month.[via BBCnews]