A Barcelona court has handed Argentinian football star Lionel Messi and his father a 21-month sentence for tax fraud, according to a statement from the court. However, they are unlikely to actually go to prison.
Messi and his father Jorge Horacio Messi are accused of evading €4.1 million in tax in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
According to Spanish law, if a suspect receives a prison sentence of less than two years, they can serve it under probation. It means that Messi and his father probably won’t serve jail time.
The court ordered the Argentinian football star to pay some €2 million and his father to fork out €1.5 million.
Messi’s club, FC Barcelona, has issued a statement, expressing its full support for its biggest star and his father.
“The Club, in agreement with the criteria expressed by the government prosecution service, considers the player to be free of criminal liability,” the statement read.
“FC Barcelona gives all its support to Leo Messi and his father in relation to the sentence for tax evasion handed out by the Provincial Court in Barcelona today,” the Catalan club said.
Earlier in a June court appearance, Messi claimed he had no idea what he was signing or how his money was being managed. Messi denied any wrongdoing and said he only “worried about playing football.”
He confirmed that he had a habit of signing official documents without reading them because he trusted his father and advisers responsible for the management of his finances, and when asked if he was aware of the alleged €4.1-million ($4.5 million) fraud, the football star repeatedly denied any knowledge of it.
The Messis may appeal their sentences in the Spanish supreme court.