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Ronaldo faces multi-million tax fraud fine in Madrid court


Madrid (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo is returning to Madrid for a court date on Tuesday in which he could be fined 18.8 million euros ($21.4 million) for tax fraud as part of a deal reached with the Spanish taxman.

As part of an agreement arranged in June with the former Real Madrid hero’s lawyers, prosecutors are also asking that the Portuguese attacker, who last summer left the Spanish capital for Italian champions Juventus, be handed a 23-month jail sentence.

However Ronaldo would not spend a day in prison as sentences of up to two years are generally not enforced in Spain for first-time offenders in non-violent crimes.

The hearing, due to start at 9:50 am (0850 GMT), is expected to last just a few minutes as the deal is officially presented to the judge.

He in turn will give the final sentence on Tuesday or the coming days, according to a spokesman for the court in northern Madrid.

Ronaldo will not be given special treatment when he arrives and will have to climb up the courthouse steps amid a likely media scrum despite the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s lawyers asking he be allowed to enter the building by car to avoid the spotlight.

The court president refused the request, saying that despite his “great fame”, he wouldn’t “compromise security” at the building, according to a court document.

His request to appear via videoconference was also denied.

– Offshore companies –

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

“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. 

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.

– 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”.

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