16th February 2019
Cristiano Ronaldo arrives at court
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Ronaldo avoids jail, gets hefty fine for tax fraud

Cristiano Ronaldo avoided jail on Tuesday but was ordered to pay 3.57 million euros for committing tax fraud when he was at Real Madrid, a Madrid court ruled.

The court sentenced Ronaldo 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 it was not immediately clear if this fine would be added onto the 18.8 million euros that Ronaldo had agreed to pay Spain’s taxman under a deal reached in June last year.

‘I am very well,’ the five-time Ballon d’Or Portuguese attacker who now plays for Juventus told the crowd of reporters gathered outside of the court in northeastern Madrid after the brief hearing. He signed a few autographs before leaving in his car.

The court appearance lasted around 40 minutes as the deal was officially presented to the judge.

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

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

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

Offshore companies

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

Cristiano Ronaldo arrives at court
Cristiano Ronaldo arrives with his Spanish girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez to attend a court hearing for tax evasion in Madrid on 22 January 2019. (Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP)

‘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 accuse him of having used companies in low-tax foreign jurisdictions – notably the British Virgin Islands and Ireland – to avoid having to pay the tax due in Spain on his image rights between 2011 and 2014.

His lawyers said there had been a difference in interpretation of what was and was not taxable in Spain.

The deal between Spain’s taxman and his lawyers has allowed Ronaldo to avoid having to sit through a long trial that could have damaged his image and seen him handed a heftier sentence.

Ronaldo is not the only footballer to have fallen foul of Spain’s tax authorities.

His former Real Madrid team-mate Xabi Alonso also appeared at the same Madrid court on Tuesday on a separate tax evasion charge.

Public prosecutors are demanding that Alonso be handed a five-year jail sentence and pay a fine of four million euros.

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.

The recent crackdown on high-profile footballers follows the removal of a tax exemption in 2010. Known as the ‘Beckham law’ after former Madrid player David Beckham, it had allowed footballers to curb their taxes.

Accused of rape in US

But Ronaldo’s legal wrangles won’t be over after a probe was opened in the United States in October after a former American model accused him of raping her in Las Vegas in 2009.

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

Ronaldo has always strenuously denied the accusations.

In a New Year’s Eve interview with Portuguese sports daily Record, he said he had a ‘calm conscience’ and was ‘confident that everything will very soon be clarified’.

ALSO READ: Spain taxman knocks 2m off Ronaldo tax settlement

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