The professional football world was rocked today when superstar Lionel Messi received a court sentence for tax fraud. Of course, the question that immediately came to everyone’s minds was, “Will Lionel Messi go to jail?” After all, having Lionel Messi jailed would be bad news for FC Barcelona and the Argentina national team. Well, it turns out that he won’t serve any jail time despite receiving a 21-month sentence! Here are all the details on the Lionel Messi tax fraud scandal.
Wednesday, July 6 saw Lionel Messi sentenced to 21 months in prison and received a fine of two million euros (about US$2.2 million) for three counts of tax fraud. He and his father, Jorge Horácio Messi, who received the same sentence and a 1.5 million euro (appx. US$1.6 million), were accused by the Spanish tax office of committing tax fraud to the count of 4.2 million euros (appx. US$4.6 million) between the years of 2007 and 2009. The crime was pulled off using shell companies to hold money in, thereby dodging taxes related to money made on Messi’s image.
During the trial, Messi claimed his finances were managed by his father, and that he himself had no idea what was going on. However, he still accepted full responsibility for what had transpired. The court added that even if he was ignorant of his father’s actions, he would still be held accountable. The two Messi men already paid five million euros (appx. US$5.5 million) since the start of the investigation as a “corrective measure and they can appeal to the Supreme Court should they wish to.
So, will Lionel Messi be wearing prison attire in place of a football jersey? Well, despite a sentence constituting nearly two years of jail time, neither man will be spending any time behind bars as a result of the Lionel Messi tax case. However, while many may be quick to think this is (yet another) case of a major celebrity committing a crime and using their fame to escape punishment, the truth is that this is normal—under Spanish law, anyway. In Spain, those who commit non-violent crimes and receive a sentence under two years are not expected to spend time in prison, so Messi’s freedom is due to his location rather than his fame.
That being said, if 21 months is a proper amount of time (or if he should have been given a two-year minimum sentence making a Lionel Messi jail stay necessary), it will likely be something heavily scrutinized by critics and experts alike. It’s also possible that authorities will now look further into Messi’s financial and personal history to see if there are any other instances of fraud that have yet to be reported. A Lionel Messi prison story … who would’ve predicted that one?