Messi handed 21 months jail for tax fraud also fined £1.7 million

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Messi given 21 months in jail for tax fraud, but won’t actually go to prison. Tax frauds the world over will be looking to move to Spain.

Argentina and Barcelona star was sentenced to 21 months in jail when he appeared in court this morning, according to Spanish media. £256,000 a week star was fined £1.7 million – six seeks’ wages – by a court in Barcelona.

Superstar Messi, considered the world’s best player, was tried alongside his father Jorge after defrauding Spain’s tax authority of 4.1m euros (£3.19m) from 2007-09.

During the trial, prosecutors said tax havens in Belize and Uruguay were used to conceal huge earnings from his lucrative image rights.

Messi, 29, said he “knew nothing” about his financial affairs because he was busy “playing football”, adding that he signed documents without reading them.

He told the court last month: “The truth is no, the truth is no, I didn’t know.

“As my dad explained earlier I just dedicated myself to playing football, I put my trust in my father, in the lawyers who had decided to manage this thing.”

Jorge Messi claimed he did not have enough knowledge to orchestrate such a fraud, blaming his tax consultants instead.

But a judge disagreed and found both men complicit in the crime, which concerned Messi’s image rights with companies including Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Danone, Procter and Gamble, Banco Sabadell and the Kuwait Food Company.

Government prosecutor Mario Maza told the court the pair could not prove their innocence and were not able to show that the player did not have at least some knowledge of the corporate structures created to lower his tax burden in Spain.

He noted that in particular the player “knew more than he made it appear in court”, adding that both father and son had “showed no credibility” as witnesses.

But despite being handed the prison sentence it is unlikely either of them will serve any time behind bars, because the punishment is set to be suspended.

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