A Spanish Court on Wednesday has sentenced Barcelona and Argentinian football star, Lionel Messi to 21 months in prison and fined 2 million euros ($2.2 million) after being found guilty of three counts of tax fraud.
The court handed the same jail sentence to Messi’s Jorge Horacio Messi and fined him 1.5 million euros.
Messi and his father were accused by the Spanish tax office of defrauding the government of 4.2 million euros ($4.7 million) in tax between 2007 and 2009.
The court found that they had used a web of shell companies to evade taxes on income from the player’s image rights.
During the trial, Messi said that he had no knowledge of the dealings and that his father had control over his financial affairs. But the court said this was not enough for him to avoid charges.
Messi and his father had already paid 5 million euros to the tax authorities as a “corrective” measure after formal investigations were opened.
Meanwhile, Messi and his father Jorge are to appeal to the Spanish supreme court
A statement said lawyers for Messi and his father believed that the sentence was “incorrect” and “expect the outcome of their appeal to rule in favour of the defence.”
It said lawyers Enrique Bacigalupo and Javier Sanchez-Vera believed the appeal would “show Lionel acted correctly at all times, as did his father.”
Under Spanish law, a tax prison sentence under two years can be served under probation.
The footballer is 10th on Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s highest-earning athletes over the past decade, with an estimated income of $350 million during this period.