Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo may be rivals, but it appears now they might have the same opponent — the Spanish government.
A day after Spain’s Supreme Court upheld Messi’s 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud, news broke that Ronaldo may be facing similar charges, according to Spanish reports that say the Real Madrid superstar is suspected of defrauding the government of roughly $16.8 million.
“These … crimes entail prison sentences of two to six years for each of them,” officials from Spain’s Finance Ministry said in a statement (via AS.com). Ministry officials added that they would request that the state attorney seek a minimum sentence for Ronaldo of five years.
The allegations against Ronaldo are similar to what Messi was found guilty of last year, which include allegations that both players withheld money pertaining to income they earned on their image rights. Except Messi, who was found guilty along with his father Jorge for using shell companies to hide roughly $4.6 million in income, Ronaldo is reportedly suspected of using offshore accounts to withhold almost four times that amount.
Manchester United’s Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho, who managed Real Madrid from 2010 to 2013, is also implicated in the more than 18 million documents that were originally leaked to the press in late 2016.
Both Ronaldo and Mourinho denied the allegations via a statement put out by their agent Jorge Mendes, who runs the multimillion-dollar agency Gestifute.
If this case proceeds as Spain’s Finance Ministry recommends, there is a good chance Ronaldo could wind up with a prison sentence, but it’s unlikely it will be for five years. Under Spain’s penal code, nonviolent criminals who agree to pay back the amount owed, as well as any interest or fines, are allowed to have their jail sentences halved or even quartered. Moreover, if like Messi, Ronaldo is sentenced to two years or less, the 32-year-old would not serve any time as sentences for nonviolent crimes of first-time offenders that total 24 months or less are generally suspended.
Besides Messi and now maybe Ronaldo, Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano has also faced tax fraud charges. He was found guilty in January 2016 and sentenced to a year in jail that was also suspended. Barcelona star Neymar has also come under fire by the Spanish government. Authorities are currently calling for a two-year sentence for him for related to a corruption case connected to his 2013 transfer to the Catalan club.
Prosecutors have until June 30 to bring formal charges to Ronaldo.
Via Washington Post