Argentine star Lionel Messi has been sentenced to 21 months of jail term for tax fraud, which he claimed to be unaware of. The player retired from international football recently. Do you think that he was aware of his tax fraud (and jail term) and the retirement decision he made is in any way linked to it?
The footballer’s retirement followed his jail term and the two incidents happened so closely that one is bound to link them together. However, there has been no evidence so far to prove there is any connection between the two.
A Spanish court gave its verdict after discovering Messi used offshore companies to avoid tax payment to the Spanish government. According to reports, Messi did not pay Spanish taxes applicable on advertising contracts and hence has been ordered to serve a jail term of 21 months. The star sportsman, however, is all set to appeal against the verdict given by the Spanish Court.
The tax fraud case against Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, started in 2013. This was when a state prosecutor peeped into the tax returns filed by the player between 2007 and 2009. He made an attempt to find out if the Argentine player defrauded the state by avoiding tax payments worth 4.1 million euros (AU$6 million). During the investigation, it was found that both the father-son duo paid voluntary tax payment of 5 million euros (AU$7.4 million).
The voluntary payment also comprised the tax that the pair was accused of not paying along with the interest amount. The 2013 incident occurred soon after the advertising deals were considered for investigation. The Barcelona court imposed on Messi a payment of penalty worth 2.1 euros million (AU$3.1 million) while his father faced the jail term for the same span along with payment of 1.6 million euros (AU$2.4 million) penalty.
Like Lionel Messi, his father is also unlikely to be imprisoned. However, the duo will appeal against the verdict together. “The sentence is not correct and we are confident the appeal will show the defense was right,” Messi’s lawyers said as quoted by the BBC hours after the court’s verdict. The lawyers seemed hopeful of a major chance of the appeal being successful as the player has always acted in good faith.
In Spain, people accused of committing financial crimes are put behind bars only when their jail term is at least for two years or if they have some past criminal records. In the case of Messi, both the conditions don’t tally. Hence he would face no imprisonment.
NY Times reported that Spanish powerhouse Barcelona club, for which Lionel Messi has always played, said that the club trusted the player. “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,” it released a statement.