Ronaldo could face court charges over tax evasion

Cristiano Ronaldo could be set for a day in court after the Real Madrid forward became the target of speculation concerning nefarious financial practices.

The president of the union of Spain’s tax authority has piggybacked reports by a number of European sources claiming that the Portuguese Euro 2016 winner has directed no less than €150 million of income through British Virgin Islands tax havens since 2009.

The accusations stem from a year of investigations by Spanish tax authorities, according to ESPN FC’s Dermot Corrigan.

Jorge Mendes, whose Gestifute agency represents both Ronaldo and Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, has vehemently denied reports suggesting his clients use overseas tax havens as a means to avoid paying taxes on image rights.

Last summer, Lionel Messi appeared in court for similar charges, and was found guilty of tax fraud. The Barcelona star was sentenced to 21 months in prison, but under Spanish law, both he and his father did not serve a day behind bars.

Spanish tax union Gestha released a statement Monday, claiming that its investigation uncovered evidence of grievous tax offences that could result in a prison sentence for Ronaldo.

Gestha president Carlos Cruzado acknowledged the investigation on Spanish radio program “El Larguero,” and – when asked if the Real Madrid standout could face a similar punishment as his Argentine counterpart – said, “That is what you would expect.”

“We feel that the tax authority should pass the case to the public prosecutor, so that they take the reins on this. It is very easy to see this ending up in front of a judge, for sure. We are all part of the tax authority, although sometimes people doubt this, especially when the papers are full of stories like this,” Cruzado added.

In May, Mourinho agreed to a €2.1-million settlement with Spanish tax authorities over the concealment of image rights between 2010 and 2013, and both Messi and Barca mate Javier Mascherano were found guilty of the same charge.

Even with the claims, Cruzado admits that the benchmark for charging a footballer for using tax havens isn’t exactly clear.

“It would be good to clear up the exact criteria,” Cruzado conceded. “There can be cases which are very similar, dealing with tax havens, that are dealt with differently, but the end objective should be the same. In (Ronaldo’s) case it seems there is evidence of an offence and we would think that soon the prosecutor will receive a notification from the tax office.”

With the front page of many Spanish papers plastered with stories of footballers and their financial practices, even Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been pressed for his opinion on the matter.

Rajoy, who is a notorious Real Madrid supporter, wisely concedes governance on the issue with the proper authorities, saying, “That is an issue for the Agencia Tributaria (Tax Authority) to get into.

“I make sure not to comment about things I do not know.”

In addition to the claims surrounding Ronaldo, reports out of Europe have implicated Los Blancos teammates Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, and Luka Modric for similar charges stemming from the concealment of image rights revenues.

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