One of top soccer players in the world, Lionel Messi, was found guilty after being investigated for tax fraud.
He and his father were sentenced to 21 months in jail and were fined 2 and 1,5 million € respectively. Until now, Messi already paid back the amount of money he did not pay on taxes, plus interest. Luckily for them, they are unlikely to end up in prison, as according to Spanish law, non-violent crimes resulting in sentence of less than 2 years and no previous crime history do not usually require the defendant to serve time in jail.
Allegedly, he was using shell companies headquartered in Belize, Switzerland and Uruguay to evade paying income tax between years 2007 and 2009. As a result, he did not pay on taxes almost 4,2 million euros. To defend himself, Messi claimed he did not what was going on and that he just followed instructions of his father.
„All I knew was that we signed agreements with certain sponsors, for X amount of money and that I had to do advertisements, photos and those things. … But about the money and where it went I knew nothing,“ said Messi.
But the judge did not put much weight on his words, saying: „(His) avoidable ignorance, which was derived from indifference, is not an error, and it does not remove responsibility.“
With more than 350 million dollars of income during last ten years, he is not the only one top sportsman being prosecuted on tax evasion charges in Spain. We can mention Neymar or Javier Mascherano, who were also accused of tax related crimes.