• The sports world falls foul of the taxman


    BARCELONA: From former German tennis champion Boris Becker to Barcelona’s star striker Lionel Messi, many sports stars and bodies have fallen foul of the taxman over the past few years.

    Messi became the latest star on Wednesday to be nabbed for tax evasion, when a Spanish court sentenced him and his father to 21 months in jail.

    Messi thus joins football’s hall of shame:

    In January, 2016, Argentina’s Javier Mascherano, who plays for Barcelona, accepted a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 816,000 euros ($904,000)for committing tax fraud of 1.5 million euros.

    President of German soccer club Bayern Munich Uli Hoeness was sentenced to three-and-a-half years behind bars after being convicted in March 2014 of having evaded paying at least 28.5 million euros in taxes.

    Put on trial for having not declared lush revenues from stocks made in Switzerland in the years 2000, he was released from prison in late February 2016 after serving 21 months of his sentence.

    In 2009, the Brazilian football 1994 world champion Romario de Souza Faria was sentenced to two-and-a-half years of community service and fined 391,000 reales (151,000 euros) for tax fraud by a Rio court.

    Crumbling under debts and in spite of his legal woes the star striker then decided to enter politics.

    He was elected federal deputy of the state of Rio de Janeiro in 2010. Four years later he was elected senator for the Brazilian socialist party and now has his eye on the post of Rio mayor.

    In 2005, Argentine football legend Diego Maradona was ordered to pay 37.2 million euros for tax fraud by Italy’s top court. The sum has since grown to 40 million when interest is included.

    The debts stem from alleged unpaid taxes during the time he played for Napoli from 1984-91 when he helped the club win its two Serie A titles.

    Spanish tennis player Arantxa Sanchez was sentenced by a Spanish court to pay some 3.5 million euros in arrears, with the supreme court rejecting a final appeal in December 2009.

    Former German tennis champion Boris Becker was sentenced to two years’ probation by a Munich court in October, 2002 for failing to pay 1.7 million euros in German taxes between 1991 and 1993.

    The suspended sentence for the triple Wimbledon champion went along with a 500,000-euro fine.

    Under investigation
    The transfer of Brazilian striker Neymar to Barcelona in 2013 has been the object of numerous judicial proceedings in Spain and Brazil over the past three years.

    In Brazil, a court in September 2015 froze part of the footballer’s assets – 43.5 million euros – for suspected tax evasion in relation to his transfer from Brazilian team Santos to Barca.

    In mid-June Barcelona announced that it had accepted to pay a 5.5-million-euro fine for tax fraud in order to avoid going to trial.

    In October 2014 the Italian financial police confiscated 900,000 euros of assets linked to the Italian footballer Fabio Cannavaro, suspected of tax fraud in an affair involving the renting of luxury boats.



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