By David J. Herzig
In a statement today, the court (the decision is in Spanish) in the tax fraud trial of Lionel Messi and his father found them guilty with a sentence of 21 months. Although, under the Spanish system Messi and his father will serve probation and not jail time.
The court rejected Messi’s side of the story. He had been claiming that he did not know what he signed. The court did not believe Messi and decided that he (my translations) “decided to remain in ignorance over time” in a situation that benefited him, “because he received returns of the funds”.
Because the strategy that they court thought Messi knew about and used was to a scheme to “create the appearance of assignment” of these rights to “companies located in countries whose tax legislation allowed opacity”.
Thus, the court added over 3.5 in Euros of fines (2 million for Messi and 1.5 for his father) for the scheme to conceal earnings from image rights. Prior to the trial, Messi claimed to have paid the 5 million Euro tax deficiency. Messi does retain appeal rights.
F.C. Barcelona issued this statement in support of Messi and his father. As Shu-Yi pointed out to me, F.C. Barcelona might have it’s own agenda on tax schemes. As the E.U. is about set to give a verdict against the Spanish clubs for violating the public spending provisions via tax breaks. The opening of the inquiry stated, “Professional football clubs should finance their running costs and investments with sound financial management rather than at the expense of the taxpayer. Member states and public authorities must comply with EU rules on state aid in this sector as in all economic sectors.”
As a final thought, I do wonder, however, if that open probation affects his ability to travel via Visa to various countries, e.g., will Brexit matter for Messi?