We always knew that Lionel Messi has an uncanny talent to dodge whatever is put in front of him on the football pitch, and now we have confirmed he is pretty good at doing it pff the field as well. The Spanish prosecutor’s office accepted the deal to wipe the 21-month-long jail sentence that a court gave him (for defrauding the country’s tax collecting agency of €4.1 million between 2007 and 2009) in exchange for a fine of more than a quarter million euros. Nonetheless, the court will have the final say on the matter.
However, this is more symbolic than anything else, considering that we already knew Messi wouldn’t actually have to go to prison in the first place: According to the Spanish criminal code, first-time offenders who get sentences lower than two years don’t have to serve time. The only way in which Messi could actually spend time behind bars is if he commits another crime of the kind during the time of his sentence.
In its written recommendation to the court, the prosecutor’s office supports as a first option that Messi and his father Jorge’s sentence be replaced by a fine, as along as they pay the maximum amount: €400 per day, which totals about €255,000.
“The office accepts suspending the footballer and his father’s sentence, taking into account that they are first time offenders, that they don’t have a criminal record and that they both agreed to return to the tax collecting agency the defrauded €4.1 million,” the office argued.
Messi’s case is one of many involving elite footballers in Europe. Argentines Javier Mascherano and Angel Di María and Brazilian Neymar Jr. all had to pay respective fines after being found guilty of the same financial crime.
The latest bombshell of the kind took place this month when Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo was formally accused of defrauding the Spanish tax collecting agency of more than US $16 million. Ronaldo’s refusal to pay the agency as a “good will gesture” prompted speculation about the possibility of him leaving Spain, in what would be the most important football-related news of in recent years.