Lionel Messi gets 21 months in jail for tax fraud

Messi (left) with dad, Jorge in the court.

FC Barcelona star, Lionel Messi has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for tax fraud.

His father, Jorge Messi, was also given a jail term for defrauding Spain of €4.1m (£3.5m; $4.5m) between 2007 and 2009.

They also face millions of euros in fines for using tax havens in Belize and Uruguay used to conceal earnings from image rights.

However, neither man is expected to serve time in jail.

Under the Spanish system, prison terms under two years can be served under probation.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner and his father were found guilty of three counts of tax fraud in Wednesday’s ruling by the court in Barcelona.

Messi, who announced his international retirement after the Copa America final loss to Chile a few days ago, was fined about €2m and his father €1.5m.

During the trial, the former Argentina captain insisted he “knew nothing” about the management of his financial affairs, saying he was “playing football”.

For his part, Jorge Messi claimed he did not have enough knowledge to orchestrate such a fraud, blaming his tax consultants instead.

Meanwhile, Barcelona has said it will support any decision Messi and his family should decide to take in the wake of the ruling.

“FC Barcelona gives all its support to Leo Messi and his father with relation to the sentence for tax evasion handed out by the Provincial Court in Barcelona today,” a club statement read.

“The club, in agreement with the government prosecution service, considers that the player, who has corrected his position with the Spanish Tax Office, is in no way criminally responsible with regards to the facts underlined in this case.

“FC Barcelona continues to be at the disposal of Leo Messi and his family to support him in whatever action he decides to take in defence of his honesty and his legal interests.”