SPORT

Messi to pay Spanish tax fine, avoid jail time

MESSI TO PAY SPANISH TAX FINE, AVOID JAIL TIME

Football superstar Lionel Messi and his father have agreed to pay fines instead of serving jail time for tax fraud, Spanish media reported on Friday.

According to Spanish news agency EFE, a public prosecutor in Barcelona ruled Messi will pay €252,000 euros ($281,000) instead of serving a 21-month sentence.

His father, Jorge Messi, will pay €180,000 ($201,000) instead of a 15-month term.

Last year, a Barcelona-based court had found the Argentinian striker and his father guilty of using tax havens to hide the star's earnings and defraud the Spanish government of €4.1 million ($4.5 million) worth of taxes between 2007 and 2009.

In the Spanish justice system, it is common for judges to suspend prison terms for first-time offenders who are sentenced to less than two years.

In 2013, when a formal investigation began, Messi and his father made a voluntary €5 million ($5.6 million) payment to the Spanish tax authorities as a "corrective" measure.

Messi is the world's fourth-highest paid athlete, and in 2015 earned $73.8 million between contracts and endorsements, according to Forbes.

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