Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi has been sentenced by a Spanish court to 21 months in prison, after being found guilty of tax fraud, along with his father Jorge.
However, Messi, who plays for Barcelona, is unlikely to actually spend time in jail, and neither is his father. This is because Spanish law states that a jail sentence of less than two years for a first-time, non-violent crime, can be served under probation.
Along with his father, he is expected to be fined several millions of euros, for using tax havens in Uruguay and Belize to conceal earnings from image rights. They were accused of concealing more than £3m from the Spanish authorities, between 2007 and 2009.
Additionally, the court ruling has already fined him £1.7 million, with his father being fined £1.3m. They also made a voluntary ‘corrective payment’ of £3.8m three years ago, in order to cover unpaid tax and interest.
Messi has maintained his innocence throughout the case, saying: “I was playing football. I had no idea about anything. I trusted my dad and my lawyers.” He claimed he simply signed the documents and contracts relating to his image rights whenever his father gave them to him, not expecting there to be any wrongdoing taking place.
It is expected that both men will appeal the judge’s ruling of tax fraud, through the Spanish Supreme Court.