Lionel Messi and his father have been sentenced to 21 months in prison after being found guilty of three counts of tax fraud, the Associated Press reports.
Because Spain suspends the sentences of first-time offenders if the sentence is for less than two years, neither Messi nor his father will serve time in jail.
Messi was ordered to pay a fine of €1.7 million and his father, Jorge, was ordered to pay €1.3 million, according to The Guardian.
The Barcelona court found that the Messis had evaded paying more than €4 million in taxes on Lionel’s image rights between 2007 and ’09. They allegedly filtered his income through countries such as Uruguay, Switzerland and Belize, where they had to pay less in taxes.
When he appeared in court in June, Messi testified that he did not know anything about the tax evasion proceedings and had trusted his father to handle his affairs properly.
Messi, 29, will be free to attend Barcelona’s first day of preseason training next week. He is also appealing the ruling:
Barcelona released the following statement in support of Messi and his father:
"FC Barcelona gives all its support to Leo Messi and his father with relation to the sentence for tax evasion handed out by the Provincial Court in Barcelona today. The Club, in agreement with the Government prosecution service, considers that the player, who has corrected his position with the Spanish Tax Office, is in no way criminally responsible with regards to the facts underlined in this case. FC Barcelona continues to be at the disposal of Leo Messi and his family to support him in whatever action he decides to take in defence of his honesty and his legal interests."