Tsk, tsk, Leo. FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi has been sentenced to 21 months in prison after a Spanish court found him guilty of three counts of tax fraud.
The Argentine player recently retired from international soccer. On Wednesday, Spanish judges sentenced Messi and his father Jorge both to 21 months in prison for the same three crimes. The verdict can be appealed through the Spanish supreme court.
But the fine print of sentence allows Messi to blissfully continue roaming around soccer pitches and enchanting fans: under Spanish law, a prison sentence of under two years can be served on probation. This means that Messi, 28, is unlikely to go to jail.
The Argentine will have to pay a fine of $2.2 million, and his father has been ordered to pay a fine of $1.6 million for the crimes.
Early in June, Messi appeared in court in Barcelona alongside his father to testify against the charge of tax evasion. “I was playing soccer. I had no idea about anything,” Messi said at time. “I trusted my dad and my lawyers.”
The verdict is a warning for soccer players; in spite of living in a golden bubble, tax laws do apply to them. Messi’s teammate Neymar is also under investigation for tax fraud both at home in Brazil and in Spain.