Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi sentenced to 21 months in prison

first_img1 Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has been sentenced to 21 months in prison.The Argentina international and his father, Jorge, were found guilty at a Barcelona court on Wednesday of defrauding Spanish tax authorities of €4.1m (£3.4m) between 2007 and 2009.The pair are highly unlikely to serve any time in jail, however, as under Spanish law a prison sentence under two years can be served under probation.Messi, a five-time world footballer of the year and one of the sport’s highest earners, was accused of using offshore companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid taxation on image rights earnings.He has always maintained his innocence, insisting he left all financial matters in the hands of his father and lawyers.Speaking in court last month, the 29-year-old said: “I didn’t know anything. I was focused on playing football and didn’t have any idea.“I trusted my father and the lawyers.”Messi has now, however, been fined £1.7m for three counts of tax fraud while his father has been given a £1.3m fine, although both men can appeal against these sentences at the supreme court. The four-day hearing actually concluded in Barcelona on June 3, shortly before he left to join Argentina’s squad for the Copa America. Messi is not the only Barcelona star to come under scrutiny for his tax affairs, as team-mate Neymar was recently fined almost £40m by a Brazilian court for evading tax on his sponsorship deals.Like Messi, he also denies any wrongdoing and is appealing against that ruling.Messi’s management company said on Wednesday night that the pair would take appeals to the supreme court, despite the fact neither man is likely to serve any time in prison.A statement from lawyers representing the pair described the sentences as ‘incorrect’.In Wednesday’s statement, lawyers Enrique Bacigalupo and Javier Sanchez-Vera added: “The large majority of the arguments on which the ruling focuses the debate are precisely the ones which we are convinced must lead to absolution, as such, the appeal has a good chance of being successful.”The Nou Camp club said in a statement on their official website that they considered Messi to be ‘no way criminally responsible with regards to the facts underlined in this case’.They added: “Barcelona continue to be at the disposal of Leo Messi and his family to support him in whatever action he decides to take in defence of his honesty and his legal interests.” Lionel Messi leaves court after being accused of defrauding the Spanish Tax Agency last_img

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