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Ronaldo accepts €18.8m fine for tax evasion

Prosecutors accused him of having used companies in low-tax foreign jurisdictions, including Ireland, to evade tax.

Cristiano Ronaldo arrives at the court in Madrid today with his partner Georgina Rodríguez.
Cristiano Ronaldo arrives at the court in Madrid today with his partner Georgina Rodríguez.
Image: Manu Fernandez/AP/Press Association Images

CRISTIANO RONALDO HAS accepted an €18.8 million fine for tax evasion in a deal reached with the Spanish tax authorities.

As part of an agreement struck in June with the former Real Madrid player’s lawyers, prosecutors are also asking that the Portuguese attacker – who last summer joined Italian champions Juventus – be handed a 23-month jail sentence.

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

“I am very well,” the five-time Ballon d’Or winner told the crowd of reporters gathered outside of the court in northeastern Madrid after the brief hearing this morning. He signed a few autographs for fans before leaving. 

The court appearance lasted around 40 minutes as the deal was officially presented to the judge.

The judge will give the final sentence later today, a court spokesperson said.

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

Ronaldo smiled broadly as he arrived at the court, holding hands with his partner Georgina Rodriguez.

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

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 have accused 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 payments for 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, and deny any deliberate attempt to evade tax.

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.

His former Real Madrid team-mate Xabi Alonso will appear at the same Madrid court on Tuesday on a separate tax evasion charge. Public prosecutors are demanding that Alonso be handed a five-year jail sentence and pay a fine of €4 million.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, once Ronaldo’s big La Liga rival, paid a €2 million 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.

The recent crackdown on high-profile footballers follows the removal of a tax exemption in 2010. Known as the “Beckham law” after former Madrid player David Beckham, it had allowed footballers to curb their taxes.

Accused of rape in US 

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

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

© AFP 2019  

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