Lionel Messi can weave around defenders with the greatest of ease, but he was unable to get one past the law. The Barcelona star tried to get his tax fraud conviction overturned, but Spain’s highest court ruled on May 24 that he must serve his nearly two-year-long prison sentence!
It looks like Lionel Messi’s week has gone from bad to worse. First, the 29-year-old Barcelona star loses La Liga to his bitter rivals Real Madrid. Now, the soccer icon just lost his appeal. Lionel was slapped with a 21-month suspended prison sentence in 2016, after he and his father, Jorge Messi, were found guilty of three counts of tax fraud. Messi attempted to overturn the conviction, according to ESPN, but was unsuccessful in convincing the Supreme Court. Denied!
However, it’s not like Messi’s ever going to see the inside of a prison cell. Under Spanish law, a tax prison sentence of less than two years can be served under probation, according to ESPN. Had three months been tacked onto Messi’s punishment, then it’s possible that the Barca player’s career would be over. Instead, he’ll serve the sentence, while also paying a €2 million Euro ($2.23 million USD) fine. Messi’s papa was also ordered to pony up €1.5 million. Damn.
Messi and his father were convicted in 2016 for using tax haven in Belize and Uruguay, as well as shell companies in the United Kingdom and Switzerland, to avoid paying €4.1 in taxes on the money he made from image rights (from 2007 to 2009.) While Messi was unsuccessful in his attempt to get his conviction thrown out, his father wasn’t so unlucky. The Supreme Court ruled that Jorge’s sentence should be reduced from 21 to 15 months, because he reportedly paid d over €5 million in arrears and extra charges. Jorge also supposedly paid €10 million in taxes on the money Messi earned from image rights in 2010 and 2011. All this extra work shaved six months off of Jorge’s sentence.
Lionel argued that he had no idea what was going on with his money, and thus, he should be spared. “I was dedicated to playing soccer,” he said, according to Bleacher Report. “I trusted my father and the lawyers that we had chosen to deal with our affairs. At no time did I think that they could deceive me.” Yet, the prosecution wasn’t buying this at all.
“It could be that they are inexperienced with tax matters and the law and are not able to set up their own companies, but they are able to understand what paying your taxes means,” Mario Maza, an attorney representing the tax authorities at the trial, said. Clearly, the court wasn’t buying Messi’s “It Wasn’t Me” defense either, and he’ll now have to spend the next 21 months on probation.
What do you think about Lionel’s sentence being upheld, HollywoodLifers? Do you think justice has been served?