In a decision that will send shivers down the back of his teammates Neymar and Lionel Messi, Barcelona star Javier Mascherano has been sentenced to a year in prison and fined €815,000 for two tax offenses.
Mascherano was given four-month and eight-month sentences for the two offences which took place in 2011 and 2012.
However, the star is not likely to be spending a year behind bars, as his lawyer David Aineto has requested the prison sentence to be substituted for a fine.
In Spain people handed sentences of less than two years are not normally required to serve their sentence, unless they are being punished for violent crime, if they agree to a fine.
The midfielder has already repaid the full €1.6m debt owed to the tax authorities plus the interest on the money, but he will know have to cough up another €815,000.
Mascherano was found guilt of failing to declare earnings from image rights he ceded to companies which he owns in Portugal and the United States. He published an open letter after the verdict in which he insisted he was an ‘honest and responsible person’ writing:
‘I am a professional athlete, I have no great knowledge of tax and legal issues. Therefore, I’m helped by people that handles these issues, which for me are complex.
‘Throughout my career I was an honest and responsible person, respecting my colleagues, the clubs I represent and the countries in which I lived.
‘This situation I’m going through is another experience, from which I will come out stronger, and very calm as I am once again within the law.
‘I reserve the possibility of action against those who advised me badly by recommending me something which was not right.’
Mascherano is not the only Barcelona star who is having financial problems, with Messi set for a court appearance later this year after he and his father were also charged with tax fraud through image rights arrangements.
Messi’s trial has been set for May 31-June 3, conflicting with the start of the centennial Copa America in the United States and Messi’s lawyers are expected to try to change the trial dates.
Meanwhile, in September Neymar had over £30m of assets frozen after being accused of not paying all his taxes.