Court Sentences Lionel Messi to 21 Months for Tax Evasion; Soccer Star Will Not Serve Prison Term

Like the songs says: mas dinero, mas problemas.

A Barcelona court ordered Lionel Messi to spend 21 months in prison and pay a heavy fine but, because Spanish law suspends the sentences of first-time offenders sent away for two years or less, no time behind bars awaits the world’s most famous soccer player.

The punishment stems from a guilty verdict on three counts of tax fraud that allegedly saved Messi nearly $5 million. The court says the Argentine footballer set up tax shelters abroad to keep more of the money he earned from confiscation from the Spanish authorities. The player’s dad, who managed his son’s business affairs here, also received a similar sentence.

FC Barcelona issued this statement standing by its man and his padre:

FC Barcelona gives all its support to Leo Messi and his father with relation to the sentence for tax evasion handed out by the Provincial Court in Barcelona today.

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 defence of his honesty and his legal interests.

While Spain’s sentencing remains lenient, its tax laws appear draconian. The rates paid by someone in Messi’s tax bracket runs about 49 percent. The state seizes more than a third of private earnings for public spending, with high earners such as Messi hit the hardest. Courts in Barcelona have made it a recent habit to target wealthy athletes to increase tax revenue.

Forbes lists Messi as the world’s second highest paid athlete behind Cristiano Ronaldo. The Barcelona FC forward and 2008 Olympic gold medalist made $81 million in salary, winnings, and endorsements, according to the money magazine.


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