Soccer star Leo Messi and his father have been sentenced to 21 months in prison by a Spanish court for tax fraud, multiple media outlets have reported.
They apparently will not have to serve the prison sentence, however, according to AP.
Messi, an Argentinian national who plays for the Spanish club FC Barcelona, stood trial with his father over accusations that they defrauded authorities of more than $4.5 million between 2007 and 2009, the Spanish newspaper El Paishas reported.
Messi appealed the decision to go to trial last year but a Barcelona judge rejected it, deciding that Messi had benefited from a scheme allegedly set up by his father to defraud Spanish tax authorities of 4.1 million euros ($4.6 million).
Whether or not Messi knew he was breaking tax laws, the judge ruled, did not matter.
The question of whether Messi knowingly participated in the alleged fraud, or if it was all his father’s idea, was addressed during the trial.
Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, were accused of circumventing tax obligations in Spain by using companies in Belize and Uruguay to sell the rights to Messi’s image. Messi’s father allegedly set up the scheme when his son was still a minor.
Father and son both denied the allegations, and Messi’s lawyers have argued that he “has never spent one minute of his life reading, studying, or analyzing” the contracts involved in the alleged scheme.
Prosecutors retorted that Messi had signed the contracts when he turned 18 and was listed as a sole administrator of one of the fraudulent companies in question.
A judge first ruled against Messi and his father in October 2014, stating that “in this type of crime, it is not necessary for someone to have complete knowledge of all the accounting and business operations nor the exact quantity, rather it is sufficient to be aware of the designs to commit fraud and consent to them.”