Sanchez agrees £1.42m deal with Spanish courts but still handed prison sentence

February 9 – New Manchester United recruit Alexis Sanchez has “accepted” a prison sentence for tax fraud in Spain, according to his agent, though he won’t have to serve jail time. The Sanchez camp described the settlement as “entirely unjust”, forcing Sanchez and other players into a deal with the tax authorities in Spain. 

The Chilean’s agent Fernando Felicevich implied that the Spanish state had altered their interpretation of tax laws, engaging in a witch hunt of professional footballers, in particular foreign players.

Sanchez, who this month moved from Arsenal to Manchester United, was given a suspended 16-month jail sentence in Spain after pleading guilty to tax fraud while playing for Barcelona in the 2012-12 season.

He reached an agreement with Spanish authorities to pay back the tax he failed to pay, a sum of just under £900,000, plus a fine of £525,000. The Chilean allegedly defrauded the Spanish treasury for €1 million. Sanchez used a company based in Malta to receive image rights payments by the Catalan club, according to Spanish authorities.

With the sentence less than two years, Sanchez won’t have to serve jail time. Still, Sanchez and his advisors were not pleased.

“Once again, there has been a leak from the Spanish tax office, [this time] outlining an agreement between our client Alexis Sánchez and public prosecutors,” said Felicevich. “Despite having demonstrated that Alexis has committed no crime, we have been obliged, following the recommendations of our [legal] advisers, to accept the unjustified pact offered in order to palliate the emotional, personal and economic cost of long, tedious, trials where the media are used to publicly expose and judge private matters.”

“Prosecutors and the tax office have put more than 30 players in the same situation, accusing them of the same crimes and threatening them with effective prison sentences,” said Felicevich. “Almost the entire squad at Real Madrid and FC Barcelona have been put in this situation, as the clubs have used a means of paying tax that was accepted by the tax office in the past.”

“During all these processes, violating the rights of those investigated, continued, repeated and obscene leaks served as a means of exerting pressure to force players to accept agreements like the one that has been leaked today,” added the agent. “In some cases, there is no choice but to bow to that pressure and, to avoid greater injustice, accept injustice like this. Many players and coaches have had to do this and many more will have to.”

In the past Lionel Messi was handed an initial 21-month sentence for fraud. Javier Mascherano and Jose Mourinho also settled with Spanish authorities. Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo has not relented and continues his court battle.

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