Whether or not you know anything about football, you will more than likely have heard the name Lionel Messi. Messi is a star player for Barcelona, and has been in the news for a variety of achievements including winning a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics, being voted the best player in the UEFA league an impressive three times, and being awarded the FIFA Ballon d’Or (basically marking him as the best player in the world), an astonishing and unprecedented five times.
But now Messi is in the news for an entirely different reason; he has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for tax fraud. So now even if you had never heard of him before, it’s likely his name will be familiar from recent news coverage.
Messi, who is originally from Argentina, along with his father, Jorge, were investigated for their use of tax havens in Belize, and their crime was for defrauding Spain. Messi himself was fined £1.7 million for his part, and Jorge received a fine of £1.3 million for the £3.5 million fraud that dated back to 2007 and ended in 2009. Between them, father and son have made what they call a ‘corrective payment’ of £5 million. There will most likely be more fines forthcoming, but it is the jail term that has surprised many of the football star’s fans.
It could be that they didn’t realise quite how serious tax fraud is. Or they couldn’t have believed that a star such as Messi would really have to do jail time. This last could be true – in Spain, any sentence of less than two years can be served on probation, if the court deems it reasonable.
Messi and his father have already instructed their lawyers to begin proceedings towards an appeal, saying that the pair acted in good faith and did not intend to defraud anyone.