Madrid - Real
Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo was on Tuesday accused of evading €14.7
million in tax through offshore companies, the latest footballer
to fall foul of fiscal authorities in Spain.
The 32-year-old - the world's highest paid athlete according to
Forbes magazine - follows in the steps of FC Barcelona forward and
Argentina star Lionel Messi, who was found guilty of the same offence
last year although the sums involved were allegedly smaller.
The issue of tax evasion has caused anger in a country only just
emerging from a damaging economic crisis that has seen countless people
lose their jobs and inequalities rise.
Ronaldo is accused of "four crimes against the public treasury
between 2011-14... which involves tax fraud of €14 768 897", the office said in a statement.
"The accused took advantage of a company structure created in 2010 to
hide income generated in Spain from his image rights from tax
authorities, which is a 'voluntary' and 'conscious' breach of his fiscal
obligations in Spain," it said.
Prosecutors accuse the Portugal international of evading tax via a
shell company based in the British Virgin Islands and another in
Ireland, known for its low corporate tax rate.
In addition, they say he 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.
And finally, they 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.
The football world in Spain has been rocked by charges of tax evasion or corruption pressed against some of its top stars.
Messi was sentenced to a 21-month jail sentence and €2.09 million fine last year for tax fraud.
The prison term will likely be suspended as is common in Spain for
first offences for non-violent crimes carrying a sentence of less than
The 29-year-old and his father Jorge Horacio Messi were found guilty
of using companies in Belize, Britain, Switzerland and Uruguay to avoid
paying taxes on €4.16 million of Messi's income earned from his
image rights from 2007-09.
The income related to Messi's image rights that was hidden includes
endorsement deals with Danone, Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Procter & Gamble
and the Kuwait Food Company.
Former Barca defender Javier Mascherano also agreed a one-year suspended sentence with authorities for tax fraud last year.
Meanwhile, Brazil star and Barcelona forward Neymar and his parents
are due to stand trial for alleged corruption over his transfer from
Santos in 2013.