Thu, Jun 15, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Cristiano Ronaldo accused of evading millions in taxes

AFP, MADRID

Spanish prosecutors on Tuesday accused Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo of evading 14.7 million euros (US$16.5 million) in tax through offshore companies, the latest soccer player to fall foul of fiscal authorities.

The 32-year-old — the world’s highest paid athlete according to Forbes magazine — follows in the steps of Barcelona forward and Argentina star Lionel Messi, who was found guilty of the same offense last year, although the sums involved were allegedly smaller.

If Ronaldo is put on trial and found guilty, he risks “a fine of at least 28 million” euros and could potentially be jailed for three-and-a-half years, the Gestha union of experts at Spain’s Inland Revenue said in a statement.

Ronaldo is accused of four crimes against the public treasury between 2011 and 2014, the Madrid public prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

“The accused took advantage of a company structure created in 2010 to hide income generated in Spain from his image rights from tax authorities, which is a ‘voluntary’ and ‘conscious’ breach of his fiscal obligations in Spain,” it said.

Ronaldo’s lawyer said the four-time FIFA World Player of the Year was stunned by the accusations.

“It’s a total surprise for the player, who feels wronged, which gives me a special responsibility to speak in his name of his feeling of sadness and injustice,” Antonio Lobo Xavier told Portuguese television.

In a television interview last month when it was revealed that tax authorities had sent a report to prosecutors on Ronaldo’s alleged fiscal evasion, Ronaldo had said he was “very serene.”

“I know these things will be resolved with the best decision, so I’m fine,” he said.

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