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The world’s best player has been convicted of tax fraud. Will Lionel Messi be playing soccer in jail?

AP Photo/Lalo R. Villar
Bad news for the Barcelona prison soccer team.
By Ashley Rodriguez
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The hits just keep on coming for Barcelona’s star player Lionel Messi.

Soon after the Argentine soccer star missed a penalty in the Copa America final and retired from the national team, Spanish officials handed the athlete a 21-month prison sentence for tax evasion. His father, Jorge Messi, received the same jail term on Wednesday (Jul. 6).

But don’t feel too bad for the soccer sensation.

In what’s surely a disappointment for the local Barcelona jailhouse soccer team, neither Messi will likely see the inside of a jail cell. Both sentences were suspended, since neither Messi had a prior criminal record. In any case, prison terms of less two years for first offenses can be served on probation in Spain.

The pair were found guilty of three counts of tax fraud by a Barcelona court, after failing to pay €4.1 million ($4.5 million) from 2007 to 2009. Messi and his father, who manages the player’s finances, were accused of selling the rights to the star’s brand image to shell companies in lower-tax countries like Uruguay and Belize, and raking in endorsement profits.

Messi was fined €2 million and his father €1.5 million. During the trial, Messi and his father said they knew nothing of the fraud, and blamed their tax advisors.

(Messi, who is possibly the best soccer player of all time, was also named in the Panama Papers earlier this year.)

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