Sports

21-Month Jail Sentence Means World’s Biggest Soccer Star Will Probably Still Earn Millions, Thanks To This Particular Law

Photo: REUTERS/Albert Gea

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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Argentine superstar soccer player Lionel Messi was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months behind bars for tax fraud, but will probably end up on probation earning millions playing soccer.

Prison sentences under two years in length under the Spanish judicial system can typically be served out on probation rather than in a prison cell. Messi was convicted by a Barcelona court for defrauding the Spanish government from 2007 to 2009 to the tune of $4.5 million by using tax havens in Uruguay and Belize to shelter some of his big bucks. The biggest name in soccer turned up in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ Panama Papers investigation.

The Panama Papers investigation looked into the shady financial dealings of various world leaders, businessmen and a soccer star who used the services of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to squirrel away millions. Messi’s father, Jorge Messi, was also slapped with a 21 month sentence and a $1.67 million fine for his role in purposely mismanaging some of his son’s millions. The Barcelona player was fined $2.22 million for his financial trickery.

As a sign of good will to the court and Spanish taxpayers, the father-son duo offered $5.55 million which supposedly covers the amount of tax money they owe, with interest to boot. Messi, the younger, earned $81.4 million in 2015 according to Forbes. The Argentine soccer player signed a new deal with his Spanish club in 2014 which netted him $53.4 million in 2015 alone.

Messi made headlines in June saying he would never represent his country on the international stage ever again after Argentina lost to Chile in the Copa America final on June 26. The U.S.A. Men’s Soccer Team lost to Argentina, 0-4, in the semi-final of the international soccer tournament. The U.S. went on to lose against Colombia in a match for third place, 0-1.

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