Will Lionel Messi go to jail? Explaining the Barcelona star's conviction
Lionel Messi's trial for tax fraud began on May 31st this year and has been the source of great speculation and fear among fans of the little maestro around the world. An offence such as the one Messi has been convicted for, can receive up to two years of jail term.
Messi's father, Jorge, is a co-defendant in the trial and has been present alongside his son for all court appearances. Very recently today, both Lionel and his father have received similar sentences after being convicted of tax fraud to the amount of nearly $4.6 million in unpaid taxes between the years 2007 and 2009.
The verdict passed today sees both accused facing a 21-month jail term.
However, it is not as simple as that. The Argentine and Barcelona superstar is faced with an unlikely possibility of spending time behind bars but fortunately, for him, there is a way around it. Spanish law states that any terms under 24 months are subject to suspension if a stipulated fine is paid and it was in the case of a first registered offence by the accused in question. Messi's case and sentencing fulfil both these criteria.
Also read: Lionel Messi testifies in tax fraud trial
Ever since the emergence of the tax fraud case and the footballer's alleged involvement in it, Messi has maintained that his innocence and the fact that any wrong committed by him was done in ignorance. He added that he signed papers not knowing its contents and that his personal finances are not really handled by him.
While this justification may be true, it is hard to believe a footballer of Lionel Messi's calibre could be so naive when it comes to something as pragmatic and important as his finances which are huge, to put it modestly.
The jail sentence can be evaded if Messi pays a fine of 2 million Euros. For his father, the amount stipulated is 1.5 million euros.
Jorge Messi has repeatedly absolved his son of all wrongdoing. On top of reparations paid to the authorities, the footballer must pay a fine of more than 2.3million Euros as additional charges.
What Lionel Messi's supposed “ignorance” means is that there exist a few documents that show him off-loading his finances and sponsorship deals to third parties in Belize and Uruguay in what seems like an attempt to evade taxes. These documents bear Messi's signature, something he claims to have done without any knowledge of what they said.
Javier Mascherano, Messi's club-mate and former Argentine team-mate, was convicted with a similar sentence of 21 months. Mascherano did not spend any time behind bars and it is highly unlikely that Messi will do so either.
The 29-year old recently announced his retirement from international football after losing out to Chile on penalties in the finals of the Copa America. The defeat meant that Lionel Messi has now captained his national side to four finals and has failed to win all four. This does seem like a truly bad time for the prolific footballer but there is absolutely no doubt that he can bounce back into form in no time. Since he announced his retirement, reports have emerged of him allegedly reconsidering his decision.