One can only speculate on Lionel Messi’s current state of mind, but it’s not unreasonable to think a feeling of relief isn’t part of that mix.
The Barcelona forward and his father Jorge were found guilty of tax fraud by a Spanish court today. Both men were sentenced to 21 months in jail.
But under Spanish law, prison sentences under two years can be served under probation. Both men, neither of whom have a criminal record prior to this, are expected to opt for the probation.
Messi and his father were found criminally liable for avoiding tax on more than €4 million earned for the player’s image rights. The prosecution argued that both men used offshore tax havens in Central and South America to hide the earnings, while the defense maintained that the younger Messi knew nothing and the elder was told by a legal advisor that everything was on the up and up. Ultimately, the court sided with the prosecution.
In addition to the suspended prison sentence, both men will have to pay millions of euros in fines, on top of what they’ve already paid.
Barcelona issued a statement saying they were standing behind their star player and his father.
”FC Barcelona gives all its support to Leo Messi and his father with relation to the sentence for tax evasion handed out by the Provincial Court in Barcelona today. 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 with regards to the facts underlined in this case. FC Barcelona continues to be at the disposal of Leo Messi and his family to support him in whatever action he decides to take in defence of his honesty and his legal interests.”
Messi and his father have the option of appealing the sentence to the Spanish supreme court.