Messi offers to pay to avoid jail
BARCELONA, Spain (AP):
Lionel Messi has offered to pay an additional fine of €500,000 ($558,000) to ensure he avoids a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud that a judge is expected to suspend, a Spanish state prosecutor said yesterday.
State prosecutor Isabel Lopez Riera told The Associated Press the fine-for-time deal was presented by Messi's lawyers to the judge who will rule on whether to suspend Messi's sentence as is widely expected. Lopez Riera said she has told the judge that her office is not opposed to the deal.
Lopez Riera said Messi's lawyers have made a similar offer for the Barcelona player's father, Jorge Horacio Messi. He is offering to pay €360,000 ($402,000) to avoid his 15-month sentence for helping his son cheat on his taxes.
In Spain, prison sentences under 24 months for first-time offenders can be suspended by a judge.
The government attorney representing Spain's Tax Office in the case will also be able to weigh in on the proposed deal. As state prosecutor, Lopez Riera is impartial in the case as a defender of the public interest.
Last year, a court in Barcelona found Messi and his father each guilty of three counts of defrauding tax authorities of €4.1 million ($4.6 million) from 2007-09. The unpaid taxes were from money made through endorsement deals, not Messi's salary paid by Barcelona.
Messi was fined €2 million and his father €1.5 million. Both were originally sentenced to 21 months, but his father's sentence was later reduced to 15 months.
In the last two weeks, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and former Real Madrid coach JosÈ Mourinho have been accused by a Madrid-based state prosecutor of having defrauded Spain's Tax Office of millions of euros (dollars) in unpaid taxes.
Both have denied wrongdoing.