Ronaldo faces multi-million tax fraud fine
MADRID: Cristiano Ronaldo returned to Madrid on Tuesday for a court date in which he could be fined 18.8 million euros ($21.4 million) for tax fraud in 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 five-time Ballon d’Or winner did not speak to the crowd of reporters waiting behind blue police barriers for him to arrive at the court in northeastern Madrid for the hearing, which is expected to last just a few minutes as the deal is officially presented to the judge.
Dressed in black and wearing dark sunglasses, a smiling Ronaldo climbed up the courthouse steps holding hands with his girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez.
The judge will give the final sentence on Tuesday or the coming days, according to a court spokesman.
Ronaldo’s lawyers had asked that he be allowed to enter the building by car to avoid the media spotlight.
But 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.
Ronaldo’s request to appear via videoconference was also denied.
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.
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 four million euros.
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.