Lionel Messi ‘could swap tax fraud jail sentence for fine’

Football star Lionel Messi could avoid a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud by paying a fine, Spanish media are reporting.

Spain’s state prosecutor would swap jail time for a fine of €255,000 ($285,000; £224,000), which equates to €400 for each day behind bars.

The final decision on the fine rests in the hands of the Spanish courts.

Messi, along with his father Jorge, was found guilty of defrauding Spain of €4.1m between 2007 and 2009.

The court in Barcelona found they used tax havens in Belize and Uruguay.

As well as the jail terms, the Barcelona star and Argentina international 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.

Messi’s appeal against the sentence was rejected by the Supreme Court last month, but his father’s jail time was reduced because he paid some of the taxes.

However, Messi was never expected to serve time in jail, as under the Spanish system, prison terms of under two years can be served under probation.

Lionel Messi’s highs and lows

  • Reached 500 goals for Barcelona in April 2017
  • Winner of Fifa Ballon d’Or as world’s best footballer on five occasions – a record
  • Voted Uefa best player in Europe three times
  • Uefa Champions League winner with FC Barcelona on four occasions
  • Spanish championship winner with FC Barcelona eight times
  • Holds the record for most goals in Spain’s La Liga
  • Olympic gold medallist with Argentina in 2008
  • Argentina’s all-time leading scorer with 55 goals
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…and major disappointments:

  • June 16 2016: Quits Argentine team after missing penalty in shootout in Copa America final loss to Chile (he later reversed the decision)
  • it was the fourth major final defeat for Argentina in nine years
  • other three losses: Copa America (2015) again to Chile (again on penalties); 2014 World Cup to Germany; Copa America (2007) against Brazil

Messi is not the only football star to find himself in trouble over his tax affairs.

Cristiano Ronaldo could be charged with tax fraud after Spain’s tax office passed a file onto prosecutors.

Reports in Spain last month said the Portuguese Real Madrid striker, 32, is suspected of defrauding €15m(£13m) between 2011 and 2014.

Meanwhile, José Mourinho’s advisers have denied allegations that the Manchester United manager defrauded Spain of €3.3m (£2.9m; $3.6m) in taxes while he was Real Madrid coach from 2011 to 2012.

Source: BBC