Messi tax fraud sentence reduced to fine

Barcelona's football star Lionel Messi (L) and his father Jorge Horacio Messi listening as they face judges in a tax fraud case at the courthouse in Barcelona. (AFP)
Updated 07 July 2017

Messi tax fraud sentence reduced to fine

BARCELONA: A Spanish court said Friday it had replaced Barcelona star Lionel Messi’s prison sentences for tax fraud with fines.
The Argentine, one of the world’s best-paid players, and his father had been convicted of hiding image rights royalties in offshore accounts and had been given jail terms of 21 and 15 months respectively.
Following the ruling by Barcelona’s provincial court, Messi will instead pay €252,000($287,000) and his father €180,000 in fines.
The fines correspond to €400 for each day the two men were sentenced to jail.
Under the original sentence, neither Messi or his father would have been likely to serve time behind bars, because in Spain first offenders for non-violent crimes are spared jail time for sentences of less than two years.
The two were in July 2016 found guilty of using companies in Belize, Britain, Switzerland and Uruguay to avoid paying €4.1 million in taxes on income Messi earned from his image rights from 2007-09.
The income relates to the five-time world player of the year’s endorsement deals, including with Danone, Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Procter & Gamble and the Kuwait Food Company.
The player and his father made a voluntary payment of €5 million — equal to the amount of the alleged unpaid taxes plus interest — in August 2013 after being formally investigated.
They were also fined around €3.5 million when they were convicted for tax fraud.
The Barcelona court said it took these payments into account when deciding to exchange their prison sentences for new fines.
“This made them both deserving of having the prison sentence substituted by a fine,” the court said in a ruling released on Friday.
Spanish prosecutors last month said they did not oppose the changes to the sentences. They had asked during last year’s trial for Messi to be absolved, arguing there was no evidence that the player was aware of how his income was managed.
During the trial, Messi had argued that he trusted his father with his finances and “knew nothing” about how his wealth was managed.
The court ruling caps off a golden week for Messi, who on Wednesday extended his contract with Barcelona until June 2021, just days after he married his childhood sweetheart in Argentina.
The club did not give financial details but club president Josep Maria Bartomeu said Messi was now the best-paid player in the world.
“He is the best player in the world and he is paid like the best in the world and in the history of football,” Bartomeu said Wednesday.
Prior to his contract extension, Messi was the world’s third-highest paid sportsman with an income of $80 million, of which $53 million was in salary and bonuses, according to a list published by Forbes magazine in June.
Messi is not the only footballer to run into problems with Spain’s courts, with Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo the latest to have been summoned to appear before a judge investigating tax fraud.
He is due to be questioned on July 31 on suspicion of evading €14.7 million in taxes.
Brazil star and Barcelona forward Neymar and his parents are due to stand trial for alleged corruption over his transfer from Santos in 2013.
Barca’s Argentine defender Javier Mascherano also agreed a one-year suspended sentence with authorities for tax fraud last year, while Manchester United Manager Jose Mourinho was last month accused of committing tax fraud by Spanish prosecutors in 2011 and 2012, when he was in charge at Real Madrid.
And former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell was arrested in May in a money laundering investigation related to the sale of the Brazilian national team’s television rights.


Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

Updated 20 January 2020

Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

  • The 38-year-old is the only player to have scored at least league 15 goals in each of the last 14 seasons

MILAN: Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to form has coincided with Juventus taking a firm grip on Serie A.

Ronaldo did not score at all in November, but he scored twice as Juventus beat Parma 2-1 on Sunday to take his tally to 11 in his last seven league matches.

The win also put Juventus on course for a record-extending ninth straight Serie A title as the Bianconeri moved four points above Inter Milan. They were two points behind the Nerazzurri a month and a half ago.

Ronaldo has struggled with injury this season and missed three Serie A matches, playing through pain in others.

The 38-year-old Portugal forward has nevertheless scored 16 goals in 17 matches, becoming the first Juventus player to have that many goals after 20 matches since Omar Sivori in 1960.

Ronaldo is also the only player to have scored at least 15 goals in one of Europe’s top five leagues in each of the last 14 seasons.

“Cristiano is in another class,” Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said. “Sometimes he poses you a little bit of a problem but he will solve 100 others for you.”

While Juventus managed to grind out results in November when Ronaldo wasn’t scoring, Inter struggle when their top scorers are not on form.

There have been three matches since December where neither Romelu Lukaku nor Lautaro Martínez have managed to find the back of the net. All three ended in draws.

The latest was a surprise 1-1 result at relegation-threatened Lecce on Sunday.

That is also down to a general drop in pace in the team as, prior to that, Inter had managed to win the previous four matches where Lukaku and Martínez didn’t score.

“The final result stems from the fact that we’re a team that needs to go at 200 kph. We cannot afford to be off the pace,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said. “It’s evident that if we go at an average pace, if we go into cruise speed, we become a normal team and aren’t able to get a result.”

Substitute

Mario Balotelli’s match lasted only seven minutes on Sunday and he could now find himself with even less playing time in the coming weeks.

Balotelli came on as a substitute in the 74th minute of Brescia’s 2-2 draw against Cagliari but shortly afterward was shown a yellow card for a high tackle and then immediately shown a second after repeatedly swearing at the referee.

Depending on what referee Antonio Giua writes in his report, Balotelli could be suspended for several matches.

The forward will certainly miss Brescia’s next match, against former team AC Milan.

“I think the yellow card was too harsh. Mario didn’t feel it was right, and his protests didn’t seem excessive to me,” Brescia coach Eugenio Corini said. “It’s a pity because he came on with the desire to make us win the match.”

Balotelli was banned for the first four matches of the Serie A season following a red card in his last match with Marseille last season.

“It’s incredible how one episode can always drastically change from too negative or too positive everyone’s opinion on the character or professionalism of a person,” Balotelli wrote on his Instagram story after the match. “I will continue with my daily work this time, too. It’s not a problem. You can continue to judge me as you wish.”