Barcelona have shown their support for Argentine legend Lionel Messi after the Spanish Supreme Court rejected his appeal against a suspended 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud.
Barcelona superstar along with father Jorge Messi was found guilty in July 2016 of three counts of tax fraud between 2007 and 2009.
Messi and his father had been accused of defrauding the Spanish tax office of almost €4.2m (£3.6m) from 2007-09 with the help of several shell companies to avoid taxes on total income from the player’s image rights.
It resulted in a suspended 21-month prison sentence and fine of €2million (£1.75m) for Messi. Jorge was also given the same sentence and was ordered to pay a fine of €1.5m (£1.3m).
The footballer had said in his defense that his father managed his financial affairs and that he had merely signed the papers. This argument had originally been accepted by the Spanish Treasury, but the State Prosecutor had insisted on the player’ s guilt.
During court proceedings, Messi insisted he had little knowledge of his financial affairs.
‘I was dedicated to playing soccer,’ Messi said.
‘I trusted my father and the lawyers that we had chosen to deal with our affairs.
‘At no time did I think that they could deceive me.’
However, Messi’s appeal against the prison sentence has now been turned down, but Barcelona has expressed full support to their player and his family.
The Spanish Supreme Court has confirmed Lionel Messi’s 21-month prison sentence and 15 months in jail for Messi’s father.
The news was confirmed by Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court confirmed on Wednesday.
Spokesman Josep Vives said: “The club reiterates, once again, its full support for Leo Messi, his father Jorge Messi, and his family,”
“Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu contacted the player’s family to communicate this support.”
“The family was very grateful, not only for the gesture, but also for the support the player and his family have received from the club throughout this process.”
“The club will continue to stand with Leo Messi, his father, and his family.”
But it is believed that Messi would not serve actual time in prison because, according to the Spanish law, any sentence under two years handed out for a non-violent crime hardly needs a defendant without previous convictions to serve jail time.