Lionel Messi has been sentenced to 21 months in prison after a court in Barcelona found him guilty of three counts of tax fraud, a statement from the court said on Wednesday.
The court also sentenced the Argentine soccer player’s father, Jorge, to 21 months in prison for the same three crimes. The sentence can be appealed through the Spanish supreme court, the statement said.
However, under Spanish law a prison sentence under two years can be served under probation, meaning Messi and his father are unlikely to go to jail.
The court ordered Messi to pay a fine of around 2 million euros (£1.7million) and his father to pay 1.5 million euros for the crimes.
During his testimony, given last month, Messi denied any knowledge of wrongdoing.
“I knew nothing about the money. I just concentrated on playing football. I trusted my father”, the FC Barcelona player said when asked about the complex series of shell companies which allegedly helped the Messis conceal earnings on the sale of his image rights.
Asked in the Barcelona court if he knew that the money went from Switzerland to Britain before being transferred to companies the Messis set up in Uruguay and Belize, the player replied: “No, I didn’t know that. I knew we signed agreements with various sponsors who paid x amount of money, and that I had to do adverts, photographs and all that stuff. But I had no idea where the money was going.”