Lionel Messi and his father, Jorge Messi, have lost their appeal to overturn 21 month suspended prison sentences at Spain’s Supreme Court in relation to the tax frauds last year. Earlier, Lionel Messi and his father were fined 2 million euros last year in the same case.
The 29-year-old Barcelona star and five-times Ballon d’Or winner was found guilty last July to three counts of tax fraud between the years 2007 and 2009 for not paying tax on image rights, resulting in this suspended 21-month prison sentence and the above said fine.
Lionel Messi was sentenced to seven-months prison time for each of the three years, plus a fine of and the Barcelona frontman has defended himself by saying that he was not aware of the complex business maneuver and didn’t avoid taxes on his image rights, intentionally.
However, the Spanish Supreme court argued in its ruling that Lionel Messi’s ignorance due “indifference” cannot mean that he is exempted of his responsibilities. On the other hand, the father-son duo has already returned the defrauded amount before the trial and also admitted the mistake of avoiding the payment of taxes derived from the exploitation of Lionel Messi’s image rights.
Last year, prosecutors said that Messi and his father used tax havens in Belize as well as Uruguay and also try to hide their income via shell companies in the U.K. and Switzerland, in order to avoid taxes totaling to €4.1 million between 2007 and 2009.
Lionel Messi said, “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”.
When news first broke in 2013, Jorge Messi, acting on behalf of the father-son duo, is said to have paid over €5m in arrears excluding extra charges and €10 million in taxes due for 2010 and 2011 on the image rights income. This is one the reason that Lionel Messi and Jorge have been given a leverage in the form of 21-months sentence, otherwise, it could have been worse for them, Spanish Media has reported.
Why is this a leverage? Well, according to Spanish law, sentences of less than two years can be served under probation and Lionel Messi’s teammate Javier Mascherano was handed a similar sentence but he never set foot in the prison. Even Neymar and Javier Mascherano have been accused of Tax frauds but are still out there to play for Barcelona.
The Spain’s Supreme Court’s decision came in days when Lionel Messi is expected to sign a new contract with Barcelona and also when the club is mourning over their defeats in Champions League as well as La Liga.