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Ronaldo avoids jail but hit by Sh416mn tax fine

Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at the court in Madrid with girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez © AFP / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU

MADRID, Spain, Jan 22 – Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo avoided jail on Tuesday but was ordered by a Spanish court to pay Sh416mn ($4.1 million) for committing tax fraud when at Real Madrid, part of a broader Sh1.9bn (18.8-million-euro) payout.

The court sentenced him to a two-year jail sentence that it immediately reduced to a fine of Sh42mn (365,000 euros), which adds on to another penalty of Sh368mn (3.2 million euros).

A court spokesman said he did not know whether this would be added on to the 2.1 billion shillings that Ronaldo had agreed to pay Spain’s taxman under a deal reached in June with the player’s lawyers.

Sporting sunglasses and a smile, accompanied by his girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez, Ronaldo arrived at the court in northeastern Madrid for a brief hearing.

He was handed a two-year jail sentence immediately reduced to a fine of 365,000 euros and another penalty of 3.2 million euros, according to the sentence.

Accused of having avoided paying 5.7 million euros in taxes due on his image rights between 2011 and 2014, Ronaldo has already paid the taxman 6.7 million euros for what he owed plus interest, the sentence read.

That — plus the court fine — comes to more than 10 million euros.

In June, the player’s lawyers and Spain’s taxman came to an agreement that Ronaldo would pay a grand total of 18.8 million euros.

That amount was not mentioned in the sentence but a source at the court, who refused to be named, said Ronaldo would have to pay 18.8 million euros in total, giving no further details.

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Contacted by AFP, tax authorities, prosecutors and lawyers representing Ronaldo refused to provide any information.

It is unclear whether the remaining amount is a separate administrative fine.

– ‘Very well’ –

“I am very well,” the five-time Ballon d’Or winner told the crowd of reporters gathered outside of the court as he left the hearing. He signed a few autographs before leaving in a black van.

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

Ronaldo grinned and signed autographs outside the court © AFP / OSCAR DEL POZO

Ronaldo, who last year joined Italian champions Juventus, smiled broadly as he arrived at the court dressed in black trousers, a black turtleneck and dark sunglasses, holding hands with Rodriguez.

Police officers escorted him.

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

– Offshore companies –

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

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“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 accused Ronaldo of having used companies in low-tax foreign jurisdictions — notably the British Virgin Islands and Ireland — to avoid paying the tax due in Spain on payments for his image rights between 2011 and 2014.

Ronaldo’s tax troubles come from his time at Real Madrid, where he won two league titles and four Champions Leagues © AFP/File / GABRIEL BOUYS

His lawyers argued there had been a difference in interpretation of what was and was not taxable in Spain, and deny any deliberate attempt to evade tax.

But under the deal between Spain’s tax authorities and his lawyers, Ronaldo pleaded guilty to four counts of tax fraud.

Ronaldo is one of several footballers to have fallen foul of Spain’s tax authorities in recent years.

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.

– Alonso faces trial –

Ronaldo’s former Real Madrid teammate Xabi Alonso was also in court in Madrid on tax evasion charges © AFP / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU

Ronaldo’s former Real Madrid team-mate Xabi Alonso appeared at the same Madrid court on Tuesday, for the first time, on a separate tax evasion charge.

Public prosecutors are seeking a five-year jail sentence and a fine of four million euros.

The trial was suspended while the court considers whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case.

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“I never hid anything, I have to defend myself,” Alonso, 37, told reporters as he left the court.

Ronaldo is also facing accusations in the United States where a former American model accused him of raping her in Las Vegas in 2009.

Ronaldo and Rodriguez left court after the star was sentenced. © AFP / OSCAR DEL POZO

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

Ronaldo has always 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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