SHARE
COPY LINK

FOOTBALL

Cristiano Ronaldo denies tax fraud at court hearing

Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo denied hiding millions of euros in income at a court hearing near the Spanish capital on Monday where he was charged with tax evasion.

Cristiano Ronaldo denies tax fraud at court hearing
Cristiano Ronaldo arriving at the team's hotel in Cardiff on June 2nd, 2017. Photo: AFP

The Portuguese – the world's highest paid sportsman according to Forbes magazine – is the latest football star to fall foul of Spain's taxman.    

He follows in the footsteps of his arch-rival, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, who was found guilty of the same offence last year.  

Iñaki Torres, head of communication at Gestifute, reads a statement from Ronaldo after his testimony at a court in Pozuelo de Alarcon. Photo: AFP

“I have never hidden anything, nor have I had the intention of evading taxes,” Ronaldo, 32, told the court, according to a statement from the sports agency which represents him, Gestifute.

“I always voluntarily file my tax returns because I think we all must file a return and pay taxes according to our income. Those that know me, know what I ask my advisors: that they have everything up to date and properly paid, because I don't want problems.”

Accused of having evaded €14.7 million ($17.3 million) in tax, he entered and left the court in Pozuelo de Alarcon, a wealthy suburb of Madrid where he lives, via an underground garage to avoid the press.

Ronaldo arrives at court in a car with blacked out windows. Photo: AFP

Prosecutors allege he took “advantage of a company structure created in 2010 to hide income generated in Spain from his image rights from tax authorities”.

They say this was a “voluntary and conscious breach of his fiscal obligations in Spain”.

Prosecutors accuse the four-time world player of the year of evading tax via a shell company based in the British Virgin Islands and another in Ireland, known for low corporate tax rates.

In addition, they say the Real Madrid striker only declared €11.5 million of Spanish-related income from 2011 to 2014, while what he really earned during that time was close to €43 million .

They also accuse him of “voluntarily” refusing to include €28.4 million in income linked to the sale of his image rights for the 2015 to 2020 period to a Spanish company.

'Legal and legitimate'

Ronaldo told the court he did not create a “special structure” to manage his image rights when he moved to Real in 2009 but simply maintained the one set up in 2004 while he was at Manchester United “long before I thought of coming to Spain”.

This structure had been deemed “legal and legitimate” by the British tax office.

The affair has taken its toll on Ronaldo.   

According to press reports, Real's all-time top goalscorer threatened to leave Spain over the affair, giving supporters a fright. 

Police and media await Ronaldo's appearance outside the court. Photo: AFP

He has since decided to stay on, according to Real coach Zinedine Zidane.    

If he were put on trial and found guilty, Ronaldo would risk “a fine of at least €28 million” and could potentially be jailed for three and a half years, the Gestha union of experts at Spain's Inland Revenue has said.

Since extending his contract last November until 2021, Ronaldo is the highest paid sports star in the world with $93 million earned in 2016-2017, according to Forbes.

Ronaldo is not the only footballer to fall foul of authorities in Spain, which is only just recovering from a damaging economic crisis that saw countless people lose their jobs and inequalities rise.

Messi was sentenced to a 21-month jail sentence and €2.09 million fine last year for tax fraud.

His prison sentence has since been replaced by another fine of €252,000 , which corresponds to €400 for each day of jail.

Barcelona's Argentine defender Javier Mascherano, meanwhile, agreed a one-year suspended sentence with authorities for tax fraud last year.  

Brazil star Neymar, another Barcelona forward, and his parents are also due to stand trial for alleged corruption over his transfer from Santos in 2013.    

READ MORE: Eight football greats who have fallen foul of the Spanish taxman

Real have not been spared either.    

Apart from Ronaldo, former player Angel di Maria, Portuguese defender Fabio Coentrao and Jose Mourinho, who coached the club from 2010 to 2013, have all been accused of tax fraud.

All are clients of super-agent Jorge Mendes, who was also questioned and put under official investigation last month by a Spanish court investigating alleged tax evasion by Monaco's former Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao, another footballer in his stable.

By Benjamin Bouly Rames / AFP

READ MORE: Ronaldo publishes details of €225 million income denying tax fraud

FOOTBALL

Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

SHOW COMMENTS