High-Profile Footballers Who Have Been Charged For Tax Fraud
5 Footballers Who Have Committed And Been Charged For Tax Fraud In Spain

Samuel Eto’o has been charged with a 22-month prison sentence for failing to declare his assets

Former Barcelona star Samuel Eto’o has been charged with a 22-month prison sentence for failing to declare his assets to the Spanish authority between 2006 and 2009. In spite of the tax fraud, Eto’o will not serve any jail time since the imprisonment of under two years for a first-time offender is often forgiven as per Spanish custom.


He, however, will have to pay a hefty fine of 1.8 million euros after pleading guilty to four separate offences. Jose Maria Mesalles, the then agent of Eto’o, too was handed a suspended one-year sentence and 905,155 euros.

Eto’o hid his income worth €3.8m from image rights transfer during his stay at Barcelona. He transferred the image rights income to an offshore company in Hungary, where the tax rate is very low as compared to Spain. He admitted the forgery but blamed his agent Mesalles for the tax evasion. 

“I admit the facts and I will pay, but let it be known that I was a child then and that I always did what my father [Mesalles] asked me to do,” said Eto’o.


This is not the first time a footballer has been charged with tax fraud in Spain. Here’s a list of five high-profile names who were caught in tax scandals in Spain:

1. Cristiano Ronaldo

A month before the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo was slapped with a fine of $21.8 million for evading tax by transferring his image rights income to shell companies between 2011-14. Again, the unwritten two-year rule (six months each, for a total of four offences) saved him from imprisonment.

2. Lionel Messi

In 2016, Lionel Messi and his father were found guilty of numerous counts of tax evasion by the Catalan court. He was handed a prison sentence of 21 years, which was later converted to a fine of €252,000, and a corrective payment of over €5 million. 

Messi was accused of channeling his income generated from advertisement and image rights to an offshore company. In his defence, he said: “I was playing football. I had no idea about anything. I trusted my dad and my lawyers.”

3. Neymar

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Unlike most of the cases, which is largely about image rights issue, Neymar’s is a bit more complicated and heinous, and is one in which his employer Barcelona was involved. As per reports in Spanish media, Neymar hid the original amount paid to him by Barcelona and, funneled the difference between said price and the actual price to a company owned by his father in Brazil. His assets worth $47.75 million we frozen by the Spanish Supreme Court and was slapped with a fine of $1.18 million.


4. Luka Modric

Luka Modric was accused of creating a dubious company named after his son, Ivano, with the sole purpose of channeling his image rights income away from Spain, where the tax rate is a bit unfavorable. Modric defrauded Spanish authorities an amount of €870,728, and was slapped with a prison of one year. The Croatian star pleaded guilty and escaped with just a fine of €348,000.

5. Alexis Sanchez

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Alexis Sanchez defrauded the Spanish treasury of €1m in 2012-13 by transferring his image rights to a company based in Malta. He accepted a suspended 16-month sentence by agreeing to repay the full amount. His agent Fernando Felicevich accused the country of xenophobia, as almost all accused of tax fraud are foreigners.


Featured Image Source: Luka Modric/twitter

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