Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi and his father Jorge have lost their appeal to Spain’s Supreme Court against a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud.
The Argentine was found guilty by a Barcelona court, which handed him a suspended 21-month prison sentence and a fine of €2 million against tax fraud between 2007 and 2009.
Jorge Messi, the player’s father, was also given the same sentence by the court, along with a fine of €1.5m. However, sentences for nonviolent crimes, for which sentences under two years are imposed, rarely require the defendant to actually serve the time if they had no previous connections.
The court had ruled earlier that the forward and his father had defrauded the Spanish tax office from 2007-09 of almost €4.2m. They were accused of avoiding taxes on income from the player’s image rights by using a number of shell companies from countries like Uruguay, Switzerland and Belize.
The 29-year old’s father, however, maintained in the court that he believed it was legal, as he was advised by a legal adviser. Barcelona backed their talisman by issuing a statement in support of the father-son duo. The five-time Ballon D’Or winner insisted during the court proceedings that he barely had any knowledge of his financial knowledge as well.
“I was dedicated to playing soccer. I trusted my father and the lawyers that we had chosen to deal with our affairs. At no time did I think that they could deceive me,” Messi said.
Even though the duo lost their appeal, the Supreme Court brought down Jorge Messi’s sentence from 21 months to 15 months. This was after he paid back some of the money he owed.
Messi has had a good season individually, scoring 37 goals in the La Liga and winning the golden boot. But Barcelona lost the league title to Real Madrid by three points on the final day of the season, after having already exited from the Champions League in the last-eight, while their arch-rivals are set to play the final in Cardiff against Juventus.