International football icon, 29 year old Lionel Messi, along with his father, was sentenced by a court in Spain on Wednesday to 21 months in jail for tax fraud but will not likely serve any time in prison since Messi is a first time offender and the conviction is for a non-violent crime with a sentence of less than two-years meaning he will most likely be placed on probation.
According to reports on the international media, a criminal court in Barcelona found the Argentina international player and his father Jorge Horacio Messi guilty of defrauding Spain of 4.16 million euros between 2007 and 2009.
The income related to Messi’s image rights that were allegedly hidden includes deals with companies such as Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Danone, Procter & Gamble and the Kuwait Food Company.
The court found Messi and his father, who has managed his son’s finances since a young age, guilty of tax fraud for using companies in Belize, Britain, Switzerland and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on Messi’s income earned from his image rights and ruled that for each of those three years they should serve a sentence of seven months.
Messi, who is a five-time world player of the year, was also fined 2.09 million euros while his father was fined 1.6 million euros which are to be paid to the court.
According to a report on BBC news, during the four-day trial that wrapped up on June 4th Messi told the court that he trusted his father with his finances and “knew nothing” about how his wealth was managed.
This ruling which directly pinpoints Belize as a tax heaven is a black-eye on Belize’s already brittle banking and finance sector, following the aftermath of the effects of the de-risking phenomenon.
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