Lionel Messi and his father could avoid possibly going to jail for tax fraud by striking an agreement with the tax office and paying a fine worth up to six times the amount of the offense, judicial sources told Spanish radio on Thursday. For alleged fraud of $5 million, the pair might have to come up with close to $30 million, José María Mollinedo, the secretary general of the Union of Finance Ministry Technicians, suggested in an interview with Spain’s COPEradio.
"The punishment would usually be between one and five years but it could be avoided as long as an agreement with the tax office is reached," Mollinedo said. "If the player pays and admits his involvement, he could obtain a reduction in the minimum punishment, because of which he would not have to go to prison."
However, Messi on Wednesday publicly denied the charges brought against him via his Facebook account; he was later backed by Barcelona, his club. The four-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner and his father are accused of using a network of companies in Britain, Switzerland, Uruguay and Belize to hide income related to the sale of his image rights. Now that a public prosecutor has lodged an official complaint on the matter, a judge must now decide whether to accept it and formally charge the Barca striker.