Sports

Ronaldo avoids jail, but hit by hefty fine for tax fraud in Spain

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

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MADRID, Spain (AFP) — Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo avoided jail yesterday but was ordered by a Spanish court to pay 3.57 million euros (US$4.1 million) for committing tax fraud when he was at Real Madrid.

The court sentenced him to a two-year jail sentence that it immediately reduced to a fine of 365,000 euros, which adds on to another penalty of 3.2 million euros, the sentence read.

A court spokesman said he did not know whether this would be added on to the 18.8 million euros that Ronaldo had agreed to pay Spain's taxman under a deal reached in June with the player's lawyers.

Ronaldo, who last year joined Italian champions Juventus, returned to Madrid for the court appearance which lasted around 40 minutes, as the deal was officially presented to the judge.

“I am very well,” the five-time Ballon d'Or winner told the crowd of reporters gathered outside of the court in northeastern Madrid as he left the hearing. He signed a few autographs before leaving in a black van.

The court refused the player's request to appear by video or to enter the building by car to avoid the spotlight.

Ronaldo, 33, smiled broadly as he arrived at the court dressed in black trousers, a black turtleneck and dark sunglasses, holding hands with his girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez.

Police officers escorted him.

He had played for Juventus on Monday night, missing a penalty as the Italian league-leaders eased past bottom-club Chievo 3-0.

Madrid prosecutors opened a probe into Ronaldo in June 2017 and he was questioned in July that same year.

“I have never hidden anything, nor have I had the intention of evading taxes,” he told the court then, according to a statement from the sports agency which represents him, Gestifute.

Prosecutors accused him of having used companies in low-tax foreign jurisdictions — notably the British Virgin Islands and Ireland — to avoid the tax due in Spain on payments for his image rights between 2011 and 2014.

His lawyers argued there had been a difference in interpretation of what was and was not taxable in Spain, and deny any deliberate attempt to evade tax.

But under the deal between Spain's tax authorities and his lawyers, Ronaldo pleaded guilty to four counts of tax fraud.

The agreement allowed Ronaldo to avoid sitting through a long trial that could have damaged his image and seen him handed a heftier sentence.

Ronaldo is one of several footballers to have fallen foul of Spain's tax authorities in recent years.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi, once Ronaldo's big La Liga rival, paid a two million-euro fine in 2016 in his own tax wrangle and received a 21-month jail term.

The prison sentence was later reduced to a further fine of 252,000 euros, equivalent to 400 euros per day of the original term.

Ronaldo's former Real Madrid team-mate Xabi Alonso appeared at the same Madrid court yesterday, for the first time, on a separate tax evasion charge.

Public prosecutors are seeking a five-year jail sentence and a fine of four million euros.

The trial was suspended while the court considers whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case.

Ronaldo is also facing accusations in the United States where a former American model accused him of raping her in Las Vegas in 2009.

Police in the US city recently asked Italian authorities for a DNA sample from the footballer.


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