Argentine and world number one footballer, Lionel Messi, has been sentenced to 21 months in prison.
Messi and his father Jorge found guilty of evading tax on image rights.
The Court of Catalonia on Wednesday found that the Messis had evaded tax on Lionel’s image rights, with more than EUR 4 million owed in back payments.
However, interpretation of the court’s judgement means that because the court’s sentence was less than two years and neither Messi has a criminal record, neither will be sent to prison.
State prosecuting team accused Messi and his father for tax evasion and that that tax havens in Belize and Uruguay were used to conceal earnings from image rights. But Messi said he “knew nothing and that he only plays football” about his financial affairs.
Moreover, Messi was mentioned in the Panama Papers. The records showed Messi and his father were owners of a Panama company called ‘Mega Star Enterprises Inc’. This added a new name to the list of shell companies known to be linked to Messi.
Panama Papers were leaked documents belonging to Mossack Fonseca, a law firm that register shell companies in the Panama is a victim of a massive leak in the company’s documents. About 11.5 million separate documents were leaked to a German newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the German newspaper then boosted the leak by sharing it with an International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Messi has not been charged to courts over details in the leak. His trial and conviction are not in anyway connected to the Panama Papers.
In response to the judgement, FC Barcelona issued a statement saying ” we are giving all its support to Leo Messi and his father. The Club, in agreement with the Government prosecution service, considers that the player, who has corrected his position with the Spanish Tax Office, is in no way criminally responsible with regards to the facts underlined in this case. FC Barcelona continues to be at the disposal of Leo Messi and his family to support him in whatever action he decides to take in defense of his honesty and his legal interests.” the statement added.