TAX EVASION...Barcelona Star Javier Mascherano Sentenced To A Year In Prison Over £1.15m Tax Fraud

Javier Mascherano leaves court in Barcelona on Thursday after admitting two counts of tax fraud
Javier Mascherano has been sentenced to a year in prison and fined €815,000 (£625,000) for two tax offences. However, the star is not likely to be spending a year behind bars, as his lawyer David Aineto has requested the prison sentence to be substituted for a fine. In Spain people handed sentences of less than two years are not normally required to serve their sentence, unless they are being punished for violent crime.

Mascherano, 31, was given four-month and eight-month sentences for the two offences which took place in 2011 and 2012. The Argentine star had already repaid the full €1.6million (£1.15million) debt owed to the tax authorities before he was given his punishment.

The Barcelona and Argentina player was handed a one-year prison sentence, which will not be applied
Mascherano (left), who paid the amount with interest last year, has to pay a fine of £625,000
Mascherano also paid the interest on the money, but has still been hit with a new fine. His tax offences were for failing to declare earnings from image rights he ceded to companies which he owns in Portugal and the United States. 

The hearing on Thursday lasted only 10 minutes, according to reports in Spain
Mascherano published an open letter after the verdict in which he insisted he was an 'honest and responsible person'. He wrote: 'I am a professional athlete, I have no great knowledge of tax and legal issues. Therefore, I'm helped by people that handles these issues, which for me are complex.

'Throughout my career I was an honest and responsible person, respecting my colleagues, the clubs I represent and the countries in which I lived. 'This situation I'm going through is another experience, from which I will come out stronger, and very calm as I am once again within the law. 'I reserve the possibility of action against those who advised me badly by recommending me something which was not right.' 

Mascherano lawyer is hoping to reach agreement for him to pay another fine instead of going to jail
Mascherano (centre) was in action for Barcelona against Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday night
Mascherano is not the only Barcelona star who is having financial problems, with Messi set for a court appearance later this year after he and his father were also charged with tax fraud through image rights arrangements. Messi's trial has been set for May 31-June 3, conflicting with the start of the centennial Copa America in the United States.

The Copa America Centenario will kick off June 3, meaning the five-time world player of the year will not have the best of preparations ahead of Argentina's opening game. Messi's lawyers are expected to try to change the trial dates.

Meanwhile, in September Neymar had over £30m of assets frozen after being accused of not paying all his taxes.

  - Daily Mail

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