By Paco Lopez
Considered by many as (arguably) the greatest soccer player of all time, Lionel Messi who plays for FC Barcelona was sentenced to 21 months in prison by a Spanish court for tax fraud. Messi’s father, Jorge was also found guilty, but his sentence was reduced from 21 to 15 months because he not only cooperated, but, returned some of the defrauded money. However, it appears that neither of them will spend any time behind bars.
The decision was made earlier today (June 24th), as Spain’s Supreme Court has suspended their sentences and they’ll likely never spend a day in jail, unless they violate probation. In Spain, any tax violation which receives a sentence of less than two years, can be served as probation.
Both of the Messi men were found guilty of tax fraud.
FC Barcelona, as expected showed their support of the five time FIFA Ballon d’Or (translation: Golden Ball) award winner. Their statement read: “The Club reiterates, once again, its full support for Leo Messi, his father Jorge Messi, and his family. This afternoon, FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu contacted the player’s family to communicate this support. The family was very grateful, not only for today’s gesture, but also for the support the player and his family have received from the Club throughout this process. The Club will continue to stand with Leo Messi, his father, and his family.”
By the way, The FIFA Ballon d’Or award is awarded by FIFA and France Football. It is a prize that merges the FIFA World Player of the Year award and the Ballon d’Or, the two most prestigious individual honors in world football (soccer).
The two Jorge and Lionel Messi were both sentenced in early July, and their appeal took until today, when the Spanish Supreme Court made their final ruling in the two respective cases.
It is interesting to note that the Argentinian (millionaire) soccer player was prosecuted for using tax havens in Belize and Uruguay as well as shell companies in Brittain and Switzerland to avoid paying taxes totalling 4.1 million euros on earnings from image rights between 2007 and 2009.
Lionel was also ordered to pay a fine of around 2 million euros at the time, while his father was fined 1.5 million euros.
Messi is currently in contract negotiations with Barcelona for a new contract, since his current agreement is due to expire at the end of next season.
Barcelona told ESPN FC that they are confident Messi will sign a new contract extension, and Spanish radio reported Tuesday that a new deal will be signed at the beginning of next season so that the money is used as part of next year’s budget.