Argentine professional footballer, Lionel Messi, and his father Jorge Messi were handed a 21-month prison term for three counts of tax fraud by a Barcelona court on Wednesday.
Messi, in his defense, insisted he knew nothing about it, as he did when the investigation first started in 2013. His father denied any knowledge about the charges, too, and said he had relegated this responsibility to their financial consultants.
The court rejected their defense, but neither of them is likely to serve jail time. Under Spanish law, tax prison sentences below 2 years can be served under probation.
Lionel and Jorge Messi were fined €2m and €1.5m respectively.
This comes just days after Messi’s Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez said he’s 100% sure he will come out from retirement and play for Argentina again, and Marcelo D’Andrea said he’d represent Argentina in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Lionel Messi announced his retirement from international competition after his team lost to Chile in the Copa Americana final, where he missed his penalty kick during extra time of play.
The Messis made a corrective payment of over €5m plus other charges since 2013.
They were also accused of using Belize and Uruguay as tax havens to hide profits acquired from image rights and they were reported to have settled €10m in taxes due it.
It’s been a rough year for Lionel Messi, who is arguably the best football player of all-time. It seems that he would need more persistence and creativity to break away from this string of woes.
His initial retirement from the national team has raised doubts regarding his demeanor, which is unbecoming of a football great and a role model, while the tax cases now attack his credibility at a low point in his career.
Despite Lionel Messi’s denial, the state prosecutor said it was hard to believe he had no knowledge of how the tax system worked, for even children know taxes need to be paid in full.
FC Barcelona issued a statement supporting Lionel Messi and his father regarding the tax fraud case saying, “The Club, in agreement with the Government prosecution service, considers that the player, who has corrected his position with the Spanish Tax Office, is in no way criminally responsible with regards to the facts underlined in this case.”
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