Messi swaps jail for €250,000 fine

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Lionel MessiImage copyright EPA
Image caption Lionel Messi will pay €400 for every day of the 21-month sentence

Football star Lionel Messi’s 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud has been changed to a fine by the Spanish courts.

The Barcelona star must pay €252,000 ($288,000, £223,000), equating to €400 for each day of the sentence, the court said in a statement.

Messi, along with his father Jorge, was found guilty of defrauding Spain of €4.1m between 2007 and 2009.

His father’s 15-month sentence was replaced with a €180,000 fine.

The pair had been found guilty of using tax havens in Belize and Uruguay to conceal earnings from image rights.

As well as the suspended jail terms, the Argentina international was fined about €2m and his father €1.5m. They made a voluntary €5m “corrective payment”, equal to the alleged unpaid tax plus interest, in August 2013.

Messi’s appeal against the sentence was rejected by Spain’s Supreme Court last month, but his father’s jail time was reduced because he had paid some of the taxes.

The footballer was never expected to serve time in jail as under the Spanish system, prison terms of under two years can be served under probation.

Lionel Messi’s highs and lows

Image copyright AFP
  • Reached 500 goals for Barcelona in April 2017
  • Winner of Fifa Ballon d’Or as world’s best footballer on five occasions – a record
  • Voted Uefa best player in Europe three times
  • Uefa Champions League winner with FC Barcelona on four occasions
  • Spanish championship winner with FC Barcelona eight times
  • Holds the record for most goals in Spain’s La Liga
  • Olympic gold medallist with Argentina in 2008
  • Argentina’s all-time leading scorer with 55 goals

…and major disappointments:

  • 16 June 2016: Quits Argentina team after missing penalty in shootout in Copa America final loss to Chile (he later reversed the decision)
  • it was the fourth major final defeat for Argentina in nine years
  • other three losses: Copa America (2015) again to Chile (again on penalties); 2014 World Cup to Germany; Copa America (2007) against Brazil

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