Messi sentenced to 21 months in prison

The court also sentenced the Argentine soccer player's father, Jorge, to 21 months in prison. The sentence can be appealed through the Spanish supreme court, the statement said.

Lionel Messi and his father were found guilty of avoiding taxes.   -  AP

Barcelona’s Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi has been sentenced to 21 months in prison and fined €2 million after being found guilty of three counts of tax fraud, a court in the Spanish city said on Wednesday.

The court handed the same jail sentence to the Argentine soccer player’s father, Jorge, and fined him €1.5 million. However, in Spain it is customary that those sentenced to under two years for non-violent crimes do not serve time in jail.

Messi, 29, and his father were accused by the Spanish tax office of defrauding the government of €4.2 million in tax between 2007 and 2009.

The court found that they had used a web of shell companies to evade taxes on income from the player’s image rights.

Messi, five-times World Player of the Year, said during the trial that he had no knowledge of the dealings and that his father had control over his financial affairs. But the court said this was not enough for him to avoid charges.

The defendants can appeal to the supreme court, the Barcelona local court said in its statement.

Messi and his father had already paid €5 million to the tax authorities as a “corrective” measure after formal investigations were opened.

The footballer is 10th on Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s highest-earning athletes over the past decade, with an estimated income of $350 million during this period.

AFP reports:

Messi to appeal

Barcelona star Lionel Messi will appeal a Spanish court decision that sentenced him to 21 months jail for tax fraud and slapped them with a fine of 3.7 million euros ($4.1 million) on Wednesday.

The Argentine's lawyers feel an appeal would eventually succeed in persuading the court that Messi and his father have behaved correctly, the players representatives told AFP.

  Dugout videos