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Messi Is Facing Jail Time And His Lawyers Might Not Be Able To Save Him

The s*** is hitting the fan in just about as slow-motion of a fashion as possible for Lionel Messi. 

Lionel Messi and his father, Messi Sr., first appeared in court over allegations of tax fraud in September of 2013 in Gava, Catalonia. What started there as a dispute over “the routing of 'image rights' income through offshore tax havens” has turned into a protracted legal battle over the years. 

Now, appeals made by Messi’s lawyers to prevent an official charge have apparently been rejected, and Messi must stand trial for these long standing allegations, which include that a “network of companies…were established to deal with his financial affairs.”

At the initial Gava hearing, Messi said he did not pay attention to his finances, that he had hired other people to do so, and his father said he would accept responsibility for any financial wrong-doing. 

“He is a footballer and that’s it.” Messi’s father said in 2013. “If there was an error, it was by our financial adviser. He created the company. My mistake was to have trusted the adviser. I’m going to take the blame for that. I had confidence in someone I shouldn’t have had.”

If Messi is found guilty, he could pay up to €21 million in fines and a year long suspended prison sentence. A suspended prison sentence entails that Messi would does not have to actually spend time in prison unless a Judge finds he has not fulfilled a “condition of the suspension.” This makes Messi actually going to jail less likely, but still possible. 

That a trial will take place at all is bad news for Lionel Messi. He may be able to afford a world-class team of lawyers, but in this legal battle that might not mean as much as it normally would. 

Spain is currently undergoing serious economic woes, and cracking down on tax evasion has been one of the Spanish government’s main strategies to combat that. As one of the biggest earners in the world, Lionel Messi is one of the biggest fish that Spanish tax authorities could fry. Should he be found guilty, it will set a precedent and send a message the likes of which will intimidate tax evaders throughout the country. 

When Messi steps foot in court, he will be at the mercy of the legal system, and there is no guarantee that he will come out scotch free, as unlikely as serious punishment beyond fines may be. 

Follow Ivan on Twitter: @yetly

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