Spanish court hits Eto’o with €3.9m fine over hidden image rights payments

June 21 – Four-time African footballer of the year Samuel Eto’o (pictured) has been handed a 22-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to a €3.9 million tax fraud relating to his image rights while playing for Barcelona.

The former Cameroon striker, who was elected president of his national federation six months ago, agreed to repay the money as well as a fine of €1.8 million for tax owed between 2006 and 2009.

“I admit the facts and I am going to pay what I’m due, but let it be known that I was a just a child then and that I always did what my former agent Jose Maria Mesalles, who I considered like a father, asked me to do at that time,” Eto’o said after the hearing in Barcelona on Monday.

Mesalles, in turn, was given a one-year suspended jail term and fined €905,155.

The court heard that earnings that should have been declared for income tax were instead hidden in the accounts of two companies, situated in Spain and Hungary.  The earnings diverted to Hungary paid no tax while those directed across Spain did so at a lower rate than the personal income tax rate.

Eto’o was one of the greatest forwards of his generation after enjoying a stellar career, notably five successful seasons at Barca scoring 130 goals in 199 games under Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola.

He continued to score goals after leaving for Inter Milan in the summer of 2009 and also played for Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Everton before retiring in 2019.

Eto’o is the latest in a long list of foreign players and managers to have been prosecuted for tax fraud in Spain in recent years, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Jose Mourinho and Neymar.

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