Argentina and Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi has been sentenced to 21 months in prison after a court in Barcelona found him guilty of tax fraud.
His father, Jorge Messi, was also given a jail term for the same charges. According to the court, Mr. Messi has defrauded Spain of €4.1m (£3.2m; $4.6m) between 2007 and 2009.
During the trial, prosecutors said tax havens in Belize and Uruguay were used to conceal earnings from image rights. But Lionel Messi claims he”knew nothing” about his financial affairs.
Earlier in a June court appearance, Messi claimed he had no idea what he was signing or how his money was being managed.
He admits that he had a habit of signing official documents without reading them because he trusted his father and advisers responsible for the management of his finances, and when asked if he was aware of the alleged €4.1 million ($4.5 million) fraud, the football star repeatedly denied any knowledge of it.
The court has ordered Messi to pay a fine of around €2 million ($2.21 million) and his father to pay €1.5 million for the crimes.
Messi and his father are unlikely to go to jail, because under Spanish law a prison sentence under two years can be served under probation.
Both Lionel and his father will be allowed to appeal their sentences through the Supreme Court.
Messi recently retired from international duty with Argentina after missing a penalty in the Copa America final, saying he was fated to never have success with the national team.
The Argentina captain missed his spot-kick in the decisive shootout at Met Life Stadium which led to Chile 4-2 win and securing a second Copa crown in two years.
Messi was disconsolate on the pitch after the game and in frustration announced his retirement from international duty.