BARCELONA, Spain — The good news for soccer star Lionel Messi is that he won’t be going to jail for defrauding the Spanish tax authorities. The bad news is that he’s been fined $2.3 million.
A Barcelona court ruled that between 2007 and 2009, Messi was guilty of tax fraud and that for each of those three years he should serve a sentence of seven months.
However, because this was the first time the Barcelona forward had committed an offense and his sentence was less than two years, the 29-year-old Messi won’t serve jail time as long as he doesn’t break the law again.
Messi’s father Jorge Messi was handed a 21-month jail sentence and a $1.7 million fine tax fraud, though also like his son he won’t serve time as he also doesn’t have a criminal record.
After the court delivered its verdict, Barcelona issued a statement “giving all its support to Leo Messi and his father.”
The statement added: “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 defense of his honesty and his legal interests.”
The Argentine’s legal representatives argued their client had no knowledge of his tax affairs. The sentence also reflects that Messi has no previous criminal record and that he has already paid back the money he owes — minus $23,600, which he now has to pay.
Messi is widely regarded as the best footballer on the planet and is Barca’s all-time leading goalscorer. During his time with the club, Messi has won the European Champions League on four occasions and eight Spanish league titles.
Forbes ranked Messi as the second-highest paid athlete on the planet, earning an estimated $81.4 million last year through his salary and various endorsement deals.