Footballer Messi guilty of three counts of tax fraud, but is unlikely to go to jail as sentence can be served under probation.
Messi is the only player in history to win five FIFA BALLON D’OR awards, four of which he won consecutively, and the first to win three EUROPEAN GOLDEN SHOES. He has won 29 trophies with Barcelona, including eight La Liga titles, four UEFA Champions League titles, and four Copa del Rey.
Debut for Barcelona 2004. 349 goals in La Liga for Barca till 2017. 58 goals from Argentina since 2005 in 117 appearances. Overall 500 goals from club and country.
In what is surely a very sad moment in the history of soccer, even any sport, Barcelona football star Lionel Andres Messi has been sentenced to 21 months in prison after a Spanish court found him guilty of three counts of tax fraud.
As well as the jail terms, Messi was fined about €2m and his father Jorge Messi €1.5m. They made a voluntary €5m “corrective payment”, equal to the alleged unpaid tax plus interest, in August 2013.
Under Spanish law, sentences of less than 24 months for “first-time” offenders i.e. those without a criminal record, are typically “suspended.” A suspended prison sentence is one where a convicted defendant does not actually serve time in prison, so long as the defendant meets certain conditions within a specified probationary period.
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At a minimum, a convicted defendant must avoid breaking laws during the time he or she would have spent in prison. Failure to meet the conditions of a suspended sentence turns it into an operative one, meaning the defendant is sent to prison. Messi and his father, who are appealing the convictions, will avoid prison so long as they remain law-abiding over the next couple of years.
Father and son Messi are accused of defrauding Spain of more than €4m (£3.1m; $5m).
The high court in Barcelona ruled that Messi should not be granted immunity for not knowing what was happening with his finances, which were being managed in part by his father.
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The income related to Messi’s image rights, including contracts with Banco Sabadell, Danone, Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Procter and Gamble, and the Kuwait Food Company.
They allegedly evaded taxes on income from Messi’s image rights by using a web of shell companies, which were revealed in the notorious Panama Papers expose.
A court statement on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 said the sentence could be appealed through the Spanish supreme court.
Judges also sentenced the Argentine forward’s father, Jorge, to 21 months in prison for the same three crimes.
The court also ordered Messi to pay a fine of around 2 million euro ($2.2m) and his father to pay 1.5 million euro ($1.6m) for the crimes.
“I was playing football. I had no idea about anything,” Messi had told the court back in 2015. “I trusted my dad and my lawyers.”
But the Spanish court in Catalonia did not buy that argument and said that Messi should have been aware of it.
In all probability, Messi will not walk into prison. He will be on probation and what better place than a soccer stadium for Messi to be at his best in terms of behaviour.
But then his game could be severely impacted as a result of this verdict. Probably, if Messi appeals to the Supreme Court and is acquitted there, only then will the albatross be thrown away from around his neck.
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Till then, Messi will have to live with the fact that he has indeed been convicted. How much he will really put it at the back of his mind and continue with his onfield exploits is the million dollar question.
Naturally, Barcelona will be upset just as much as will be his teammates, Neymar and Luis Suarez, in particular.
Messi is s hero and has a huge world wide following. But then none would want to support him in his wrong doings, unintentionally or otherwise. More so as the court has given him all opportunity to defend himself and prove that he is not guilty. Messi has failed in that.
The Argentine is made of sterner stuff and will bounce back even stronger. That’s what Barcelona, Argentina and the soccer World will hope and pray for.
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