Lionel Messi was today sensationally handed a 21 month jail sentence for tax evasion amounting to €4 million.
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Of course, it’s unlikely Messi will ever see the inside of a jail cell because he’s a world famous international footballer and also because under the terms of Spanish law he’ll also be able to serve the first two years of his jail sentence under probation. Convenient.
Messi’s father, Jorge Messi, was also handed a jail term as he was found guilty of helping Messi defraud the Spanish government of the equivalent of £3.5 million from 2007-2009. They also both face millions of pounds/euros worth of fines for concealing their earnings for image rights in tax havens in Belize and Uruguay. They’ll actually have to pay these back though probably – for a guy as rich as you assume Messi is though I doubt this is going to be that big a deal.
In fairness to the younger Messi, he claimed that he didn’t know anything about his financial affairs and left the management of them to his father as he was busy playing football. That sounds about right and I’m sure all footballers try and fiddle their tax to some degree, only fleecing the government out of that amount of money is bound to draw some attention.
Should the pair go to jail for their crimes though? In any other country they probably would but chances are they knew exactly what they were doing and even if they did get caught all they would have to do is pay the money back. Everyone will probably forget about it in a year or so anyway because people aren’t going to remember Messi as a tax cheat, but as one of the best footballers who ever lived. Looks like they played the system pretty well and almost got away with it.
The most important rule of tax fraud – don’t let your kids post pictures of all your sick stuff on Instagram because you might end up getting caught out.