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Supreme Court confirms Messi 21-month suspended jail sentence for fraud

FILE PHOTO Messi . PHOTO BY AFP

Spain Supreme Court confirms Messi fraud sentence

Madrid, Spain | AFP | Spain’s Supreme Court on Wednesday confirmed a 21-month jail sentence and 2.09-million-euro ($2.25 million) fine imposed on Lionel Messi for tax fraud, months after the Barcelona football star lodged an appeal.

The Argentina international and his father Jorge Horacio Messi were in July 2016 found guilty of using companies in Belize, Britain, Switzerland and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on 4.16 million euros of Messi’s income earned from his image rights from 2007-09.

The income related to Messi’s image rights that was hidden includes endorsement deals with Danone, Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Procter & Gamble and the Kuwait Food Company.

Both Messi and his father were given 21 months in jail — sentences likely to be suspended as is common in Spain for first offences for non-violent crimes carrying a sentence of less than two years.

They appealed to the Supreme Court.

While the court confirmed the sentence for Messi on Wednesday, it reduced it to 15 months jail for his father, taking into account that his football star son had paid back the defrauded money to tax authorities.

During last year’s trial, Messi had argued that he trusted his father with his finances and “knew nothing” about how his wealth was managed.

But the Supreme Court argued that he would have known about his obligation to pay taxes on income earned from his image rights.

Messi’s tax fraud trial in June last year took place against a backdrop of simmering voter anger over steep cuts to health and social spending, as the government struggles to bring Spain’s public deficit down

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Ex-Barcelona president arrested in money laundering probe

Former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell was arrested on Tuesday in a money laundering investigation related to image rights in the Brazilian national football team, a police spokesman told AFP.

The police operation was mainly carried out in the northeastern region of Catalonia and for the moment “there are four or five detainees, including the former president of Barca, Sandro Rosell, and his wife,” the police spokesman said.

The investigation focuses on “money laundering in companies linked to the image rights of the Brazilian football team,” police added.

Officers were searching the homes of those arrested as part of the operation as well as at several company headquarters in Barcelona, Girona and Lleida in Catalonia and in Andorra, a tiny principality wedged between Spain and France, police said.

Businessman Rosell, 53, was manager of sporting goods giants Nike in Brazil and oversaw the contract for the national team to wear the US brand, before taking over as president of Barcelona in 2010.

He resigned as Barcelona president in 2014 after being charged over alleged tax fraud relating to the club’s signing of Brazil striker Neymar from Santos. He was later cleared of all charges in connection with the case following an agreement with prosecutors.

Rosell will nevertheless be tried for fraud and corruption relating to a parallel complaint filed by Brazilian investment company DIS, which owned 40 percent of Neymar’s sporting rights at the time of his transfer.

DIS claim it was cheated out of its real share because part of the transfer fee was concealed by Barcelona, Santos and the Neymar family.

A Spanish court earlier this month ordered Neymar and his parents to stand trial for alleged “business corruption” over the affair, making him the latest star from the Catalan club to have to take the stand.

Five-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and his father were given 21-month suspended jail sentences in July 2016 for tax fraud relating to the player’s image rights.

Barca’s Argentine defender Javier Mascherano also agreed a one-year suspended sentence with authorities for tax fraud earlier this year.

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