Argentina and Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for tax fraud. His father, Jorge Messi, was also given a jail term for defrauding Spain of €4.1m between 2007 and 2009.
They also face millions of euros in fines for using tax havens in Belize and Uruguay used to conceal earnings from image rights. However, neither man is expected to serve time in jail.
Under the Spanish system, prison terms under two years can be served under probation. The footballer and his father were found guilty of three counts of tax fraud in Wednesday’s ruling by the court in Barcelona.
Messi was fined about €2m and his father €1.5m. During the trial, Lionel Messi insisted he “knew nothing” about the management of his financial affairs, saying he was “playing football”.
For his part, Jorge Messi claimed he did not have enough knowledge to orchestrate such a fraud, blaming his tax consultants instead.
Lionel Messi retired from international football late last month. He has won the Fifa World Player of the Year five times and is one of the richest athletes in the world.