August 1 – As expected, Cristiano Ronaldo protested his innocence when he made his highly anticipated court appearance outside Madrid to face accusations of evading €14.7 million in taxes.
The 32-year-old Real Madrid superstar, the latest player to allegedly fall foul of the Spanish tax authorities, was in court for around 90 minutes after which he dodged a stack of TV crews and reporters, instead releasing a statement through his management company Gestifute.
Prosecutors accuse the Portuguese forward of having routed image rights income through a network of companies – including one in the British Virgin Islands and another in Ireland – to avoid paying the relevant taxes from 2011 to 2014.
But Ronaldo flatly denies he has done anything wrong.
“The Spanish tax authorities know my income in detail, because we have given it to them. I have never hidden anything in my declarations, nor have I had the smallest intention of evading taxes,” the player told the court, according to the statement released by Gestifute.
“I always make my declarations voluntarily, because I think we all have to declare and pay tax in accordance to our incomes. Those who know me know what I ask my advisors: that they take their time on it and pay correctly, because I don’t want problems.”
Spanish courts have recently cracked down on tax evasion among high-profile footballers. Ronaldo’s arch-rival, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, was handed a 21-month prison sentence earlier this year and fined €2.09 million, but under Spanish law was able to exchange the jail sentence for an additional fine.
However, Messi was only accused of evading €4.1 million in tax, much less than Ronaldo.
According to prosecutors, the Portuguese four-time world player of the year allegedly took “advantage of a company structure created in 2010 to hide income generated in Spain from his image rights from tax authorities”, which was a “voluntary and conscious breach of his fiscal obligations in Spain”.
Ronaldo claims, however, the transfer of his image rights to a company he owned took place in 2004 and not in 2010 after he joined Real.
“I kept the structure that managed them when I was in England…the lawyers that Manchester United recommended to me set it up in 2004, long before I thought about coming to Spain,” said the statement. “The structure was a normal one in England; it was verified by the English treasury and ratified as legal and legitimate.”
Spanish judicial authorities now have to decide whether the investigation goes to trial.
“This is the time to let justice run its course. I believe in justice and I hope that, in this case, once, again, there will be a fair decision,” said Ronaldo’s statement.
“In order to avoid any unnecessary pressure, or any contribution to a parallel trial, I’ve decided I won’t make any more statements on this subject until the decision is made.”
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