Lionel Messi and his father Jorge have both been sentenced to 21 months in jail (though it is very unlikely that they will be put behind bars) and handed multi-million Euro fines, after being found guilty of tax evasion.
The pair were convicted of hiding up to €4.1 million from Spanish Tax authorities, by using several companies based in tax havens around the world.
The case is based on the younger Messi’s image rights, and how much he earned from various companies between 2007 and 2009 for the use of his likeness. That sum was €10.1 million.
The 29-year old Barcelona midfielder transferred what the Spanish tax authorities call “significant earnings” to supposed third party companies. Crucially, Messi did not declare these transactions.
This money was then transferred to accounts in Switzerland and Britain, with virtually no tax paid on the transactions.
It was later revealed that Lionel Messi was the owner of one of these companies, Jenbril, based in South American haven Uruguay.
The footballer’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi, was also convicted because he was in charge of his son’s accounting, and was key in the creation of the “third party” companies, and the apparent mastermind behind the scheme.
In fact, in his defence, Lionel Messi said that he was “simply a soccer player”, and both he and his legal team argued that he had little or no understanding of the world of finance.
However, the written accusation of the Spanish prosecutor argued that Messi Jr. had “personal and direct intervention” in some of the contracts involved, which stipulated his payments should go to his Swiss bank accounts. His involvement with Jenbril also hints that his ignorance may not have been as all encompassing as he claimed.
Lionel Messi paid €5 million to the Spanish court after an initial hearing on this matter, but neither that generosity nor his apparent ignorance on the matter have allowed the Argentine footballer to escape conviction.
However, he and his father are almost certain to escape time behind bars, due to Spain’s law that sentences under 24 months can be served on probation. However, there have been previous exceptions made to this rule in high profile cases. Singer Isabel Pantoja was sent to jail in 2014 due to her involvement in a money laundering scheme.
Both were found guilty of three tax offenses. Messi will have to pay a fine of €2,093,001.55, and his father, €1,596,939.93.