Sunday 25 September 2016

Barcelona's Javier Mascherano avoids jail despite being handed 12-month prison sentence

Published 21/01/2016 | 14:42

Barcelona's Argentinian defender Javier Mascherano (2nd R) arrives at the courthouse on January 21, 2016 in Barcelona.
Barcelona's Argentinian defender Javier Mascherano (2nd R) arrives at the courthouse on January 21, 2016 in Barcelona.

Barcelona star Javier Mascherano has reached an agreement with the Spanish tax authorities that will ensure he avoids a possible prison sentence.

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Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported earlier on Thursday that Mascherano was sentenced to a prison term after appearing in court, where the former Liverpool and West Ham man was also hit with a ‎€815,000 (£629,000) fine.

Yet the former Liverpool star has now settled the dispute over failure to declare €1.5in earnings between 2011 and 2012.

Mascherano took to Twitter to insist he did not deserve to be punished for his accounting errors, with the Argentine international suggesting his financial advisers were to blame for the irregularities.

Barcelona's Argentinian defender Javier Mascherano (back) stands before the judge on January 21, 2016 at the courthouse in Barcelona. Javier Mascherano of FC Barcelona agreed today before a Spanish judge a one year prison sentence, which won't be applied, and a fine of 816,000 euros for 1.5 million fraud. AFP PHOTO / JOSEP LAGOJOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images
Barcelona's Argentinian defender Javier Mascherano (back) stands before the judge on January 21, 2016 at the courthouse in Barcelona. Javier Mascherano of FC Barcelona agreed today before a Spanish judge a one year prison sentence, which won't be applied, and a fine of 816,000 euros for 1.5 million fraud. AFP PHOTO / JOSEP LAGOJOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images

“I’m a sporting professional, I don’t have a great understanding of taxes and law,” Mascherano tweeted.

“To deal with what are for me technical and complicated matters, I have to rely on other people.

“Throughout all my career I have been an honest person, responsible and respectful of my team-mates and the clubs that I have played for and the countries I have lived in.”

A statement from Mascherano released on the Barcelona website offered some more details on the case as it read:

“I want to clarify some issues related to recent news about myself.

“As of today, I have reached an agreement with the Spanish tax authorities. As such, with the legal side resolved and with the confidence of having sorted my financial situation, I want to issue a short explanation.

“After agreeing to come to Barcelona, I hired a prestigious Spanish tax firm, with renowned professionals and an excellent reputation. In agreement with my situation, they recommended certain structures to me, all within the legal framework, always notifying me that the procedures were common, transparent and in accordance with the law.

“I was advised by said professionals from the year 2010 until 2014, when I decided to change firms before the process was opened against me and with evidence that my problem was no longer a possibility but a reality.

“My new advisors recommended I pay the taxes demanded by the Treasury, presenting what they called 'corrections'.

“Now, finally and following a bitter delay, we have reached this agreement, which restores to me the peace of mind of having fulfilled my obligations.”

Mascherano also suggested he would consider taking legal action against the financial advisers who left him in this position.

 This is the latest incident of the Spanish tax avoidance authorities catching up with high profile sportsman, with Mascherano's Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi set to face a court in May over an alleged breach of rules.

Messi and his father Jorge have been charged with tax fraud for allegedly failing to declare around £3.2m in taxes related to his image rights between 2007 and 2009 through companies in Belize and Uruguay.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the tax office have asked for both Messi and his father to be handed prison sentences of 22 and a half months. Both men have denied the accusations and instead blamed a former financial advisor.

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