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FC Barcelona Defender Mascherano Sentenced As Messi Tax Trial Date Is Set

Forbes Sunday, January 24th 2016 03:03 AM

FC Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano has pleaded guilty to two counts of tax fraud.

In a hearing that took a little more than ten minutes, Mascherano admitted that he failed to pay taxes on earnings for the years 2011 and 2012. Like many athletes before him, Mascherano’s tax woes can be tied to assigning image rights to companies located in alleged tax havens.

The Argentine footballer had previously not admitted any wrongdoing but did settle an outstanding tax bill by paying €1.5 million ($1.69 million US) in taxes plus €200,000 ($225,860 US) in interest last year.

As punishment, Mascherano was fined €815,000 ($880,078 US) and sentenced to 12 months in prison (four months for the 2011 charges and eight months for the 2012 charges). The prison sentence is largely ceremonial. As a general rule, in Spain, those who are sentenced to light sentences won’t actually serve time unless the offense involves a violent crime or if the defendant is a habitual offender. This is at the discretion of the judge; in Mascherano’s case, the defense has asked that the prison term be suspended in exchange for an additional fine.

After the proceedings, Mascherano (@Mascherano) tweeted to his fans in Spanish and in English, saying “I’m a professional athlete, I have no extensive knowledge of legal and tax issues.” He went on to say that “Throughout my career I was an honest and responsible person, respecting my teammates, the clubs that I represented and countries where I lived.” He referred to the proceedings as an “experience” that has left him stronger. 

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