Argentina and Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for tax fraud, Spanish media reported. His father, Jorge Messi, was also given a jail term for defrauding Spain of €4.1m (£3.2m; $4.6m) between 2007 and 2009.
During the trial, prosecutors said tax havens in Belize and Uruguay were used to conceal earnings from image rights. But Lionel Messi said he “knew nothing” about his financial affairs. The sentence can be appealed through the Spanish Supreme Court, a statement from the court said. However, under Spanish law a prison sentence under two years can be served under probation, meaning Messi and his father are unlikely to go to jail.
The court ordered Messi to pay a fine of around 2 million euros ($2.21 million) and his father to pay 1.5 million Euros for the crimes.
The footballer and his father were found guilty of three counts of tax fraud in Wednesday’s ruling by the court in Barcelona.
As well as the jail terms, Messi was fined about €2m and his father €1.5m. They made a voluntary €5m “corrective payment”, equal to the alleged unpaid tax plus interest, in August 2013.
The sentence can be appealed against via the Spanish supreme court.