On Wednesday, Lionel Messi and his father Jorge Messi were sentenced to 21 months each in jail by the High Court in Barcelona.
Lionel Messi Given Prison Sentence For Tax Fraud
The Messi’s were found guilty of defrauding the Spanish Tax authorities of a reported €4.1 million by using fake companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid tax on image rights earned between 2007 – 2009.
Messi and his father were both issued with the same sentence of 21 months by the Judge. As is common place for financial cases in Spain, due to having no prior convictions and as the sentence delivered was less than 24 months; neither is likely to spend any time in prison. Instead, he will likely serve probation.
The defence offered the explanation that Lionel Messi was just a football player who had no interest or expertise in the world of finance.
This was dismissed by the Prosecutor who successfully argued both father and son would have had knowledge of the tax laws in Spain and some knowledge the impact of Lionel Messi’s tax arrangements would have had on lowering his tax obligations.
Both were handed fines totalling €3.69 million.
Mascherano’s Tax Affairs
In a similar case earlier in this year, fellow Barcelona and Argentine teammate, Javier Mascherano, was also convicted of tax avoidance by Spanish courts in January.
The Barcelona defender was sentenced to one-year in prison following concealing the extent of his image rights payments during 2011-2012. Mascherano agreed a deal with the Spanish authorities after failing to pay €1.5 million in tax.
Mascherano’s defence echoes that of the Messi’s. The player released a statement on Twitter at the time of his sentencing detailing his personal defence.
“After agreeing to come to Barcelona, I hired a prestigious Spanish tax firm, with renowned professionals and an excellent reputation. In agreement with my situation, they recommended certain structures to me, all within the legal framework, always notifying me that the procedures were common, transparent and in accordance with the law.
“I’m a professional sportsman, I don’t have huge knowledge of tax or legal matters. As such, I lean on the people who handle these technical and, for me, complex terms.”
Mascherano, as with Messi, is very unlikely to complete any jail time due to the length on the sentence, nature of the offence and previous criminal history.