The world's highest paid athlete, Cristiano Ronaldo, has been accused of tax evasion. The Real Madrid super star reeled in $93 million last year, putting him ahead of basketball giant LeBron James and La Liga rival, Lionel Messi. Ronaldo has been accused of failing to pay 14.7 million euros ($16.5 million) in taxes.
The prosecutor’s office in Madrid filed a lawsuit that alleges that the 31-year-old knowingly used offshore accounts to hide income from his image-rights payments. The charges come months after Spanish newspaper El Mundo published leaked documents revealing details of the offshore holdings of several soccer players, including Ronaldo. The tax evasion relates to a three-year period starting in 2011.
Ronaldo, who led Real Madrid to win both the Spanish league and European Cup, is just the latest high profile soccer player to face prosecution over tax affairs. Earlier a court rejected Lionel Messi’s appeal over a tax fraud conviction. Messi’s Barcelona teammate Neymar is also being prosecuted in Spain over his transfer from Brazilian team Santos in 2013.
The management team for the four-time world soccer player of the year responded earlier this year to the tax allegations against him by releasing his 2015 tax declaration. It revealed he held assets outside of Spain worth more than 203 million euros.
“This communication, which was not required by law, constitutes irrefutable proof that Cristiano Ronaldo and his representatives are in good faith, and cooperate with the authorities in a spirit of transparency and compliance with legality,” the agency Gestifute said.
The Madrid prosecutor said in his 2014 tax return Ronaldo claimed to have recorded revenue from Spanish sources between 2011 and 2013 of 11.5 million euros, though in reality that number was almost 43 million euros.
Ronaldo had appeared immune to the tax allegations which have affected a number of famous soccer players, including Lionel Messi, who was found guilty of tax evasion last year (his sentence was upheld this year).
However, last year, suspicions against Ronaldo were raised after the so-called "Football Leaks" - think Panama Papers with a hyper-focus on soccer players - suggested that Ronaldo had underreported his income.
Real Madrid’s all-time highest scorer, who is due to play in Portugal’s opening World Cup match against Spain on Friday, has according various news agencies has settled his tax evasion charges brought by the Spanish authorities, paying a EUR18.8 million fine and agreeing to accept a two-year jail sentence, although Spanish criminal law allows a sentence of less than two years for a first offence to be served on probation.
Ronaldo was accused of evading EUR14.7 million in taxes on EUR75 million of his image rights income, which has, for years, been handled by two Irish companies.
Read more at: Tax Times blog