Barcelona (AFP) – A court in Spain on Wednesday sentenced Barcelona striker Lionel Messi and his father to 21 months in jail for tax fraud, in the latest case of tax avoidance involving a top footballer in the country.
But the prison sentences are likely to be suspended as is common in Spain for first offences for non-violent crimes carrying a sentence of less than two years.
The Barcelona court found the Argentina international and his father Jorge Horacio Messi guilty of using companies in Belize, Britain, Switzerland and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on 4.16 million euros of Messi’s income earned from his image rights from 2007-09.
The income related to Messi’s image rights that was allegedly hidden includes endorsement deals with Danone, Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Procter & Gamble and the Kuwait Food Company.
The court found Messi and his father, who has managed his son’s affairs since he was a child, guilty tax fraud and ruled that for each of those three years they should serve a sentence of seven months.
Messi, 29, a five-time world player of the year, was also fined 2.09 million euros while his father was fined 1.6 million euros.
They can appeal the decision to Spain’s Supreme Court.
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