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Soccer superstar Lionel Messi handed 3-year prison sentence after tax evasion conviction

July 6, 2016  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Soccer superstar Lionel Messi handed 3-year prison sentence after tax evasion conviction

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A Barcelona court handed Argentine soccer icon Lionel Messi a 21-month prison term along with a 2 million euros ($2.2 million) fine after being convicted of three counts of tax fraud. Although he likely won’t serve actual time behind bars.

His father was also found guilty of tax evasion and was handed the same sentence along with a $1.5 million penalty, the court announced in a statement.

Messi and his father now have five days to appeal to the supreme court, the Barcelona court said. A court spokeswoman confirmed Messi was unlikely to be incarcerated.

Under Spanish law, it is rare that an individual with no previous criminal record would be sentenced to a period of imprisonment, according to Reuters.

In a written ruling, the court found Messi and his father guilty of using a number of off-shore shell companies to defraud the Spanish tax office of almost 4.2 million euros between 2007 and 2009 on income from the player’s image rights.

According to Spanish prosecutors, Messi and his father established shell companies in tax havens such as Uruguay, Switzerland, and Belize where laws help keep the owner’s identities concealed.

During the course of the trial, the Barcelona and Argentina national team superstar admitted he signed contracts protecting his image rights but staunchly denied he had any carnal knowledge of wrongdoing or he was defrauding the Spanish state.

Although Messi claimed he left control over the state of his financial affairs to his father, the court ruled on it wasn’t enough evidence to evade charges.

“(His) avoidable ignorance, which was derived from indifference, is not an error, and it does not remove responsibility,” the presiding judge, Mercedes Armas Galve, wrote in the statement.

“The information that the accused avoided having was, in reality, within his reach via trustworthy and accessible sources.”

Messi and his father have already repaid 5 million euros as a corrective payment to the Spanish tax authorities after the investigation was launched.

The five-time world player has an estimated income of $350 million over the past decade which lists him as number 10 on Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s highest-earning athletes.

Messi announced his retirement from the Argentine national team last month, which he was captain of after his side lost on penalties to Chile in the Copa America final held in the United States.

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