Lionel Messi the start soccer player for Barcelona could have his prison sentence of 21 months substituted for a large fine after a prosecutor in Spain said he was open to dropping Messi’s jail term handed down for tax fraud.
The judge overseeing the case will make his final decision bearing in mind the recommendation made by the prosecutor. Judges tend to follow the guidance of state prosecutors in Spain.
Messi and Jorge, his father, were found guilty of tax fraud last July in a Catalan court. The tax fraud took place from 2007 to 2009 for €4.1 million or $4.6 million for image rights.
In May, the Supreme Court of Spain rejected an appeal to have the sentence overturned.
Neither the captain of the Argentine national team Messi nor his dad are expected to serve any jail time, as under Spanish law jail sentences that are for less than two years can be served with probation.
The prosecutor, who is based in Barcelona, handling the Messi case said as well that if the judge did not want to make a swap of the prison term for the proposed fine, it was would be open to a suspended prison sentence of 3 years for both Messi and his father due to them not having any prior offenses, said a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office.
The tax fraud case against Messi was one of the first investigations by authorities in Spain into the tax affairs of top football players.
Earlier in June, a state prosecutor accused Cristiano Ronaldo a striker for Real Madrid of knowingly hiding income for image rights in Spain by using a complex business structure.
Messi, who during his career at Barcelona has eight titles in La Liga, five King Cups and four Champions League titles, finished this season as La Liga’s top scorer with 37 goals.
Messi is also a five-time world player of the year, the all-time leading scorer at Barcelona and the highest paid Barcelona player.
Messi along with his father defrauded the tax office in Spain of more than €4.1 Million from 2007 to 2009 through using a number of shell companies that were based in Uruguay, Switzerland and Belize to evade taxes for income from the image rights of the player.
The largest fine that Spanish law allows to be substituted for the 21-month sentence against Messi is €255,550. That would be over and above the fine of €2 million that the court handed down during Messi’s sentencing last year.