The Barcelona footballer was found guilty of three counts of tax fraud by a court in the Spanish city today.He was standing trial alongside his father Jorge and the two of them were sentenced to 21 months behind bars each.Messi has to pay a fine of around €2million (£1.7million) and his dad must pay €1.5million (£1.3million).
Neither man is expected to spend any time behind bars. Now the club has come out in support of the 29-year-old star and his father.
Prosecutors said tax havens in Belize and Uruguay were used to conceal earnings from image rights.
Yet Messi, who pockets £256,000 a week, said he “knew nothing” about his financial affairs.However, under Spanish law a prison sentence under two years can be served under probation.That means Messi and his father, who can also appeal the sentence, are unlikely to go to jail.Government prosecutor Mario Maza said that the player and his dad did not prove their innocence.He said they could not show that Messi did not have some knowledge of the corporate structures created to lower his tax burden in Spain.”Messi knew more than he made it appear (in court),” Maza said at the time, adding that they “showed no credibility”.
A statement from Barcelona threw the club’s weight behind the player and his father.
It read: “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.”