Football: Cristiano Ronaldo pays $29 million fine for tax evasion, avoids jail

VIDEO: REUTERS
Juventus' forward and former Real Madrid player Cristiano Ronaldo leaves after attending a court hearing for tax evasion in Madrid on Jan 22, 2019.
Juventus' forward and former Real Madrid player Cristiano Ronaldo leaves after attending a court hearing for tax evasion in Madrid on Jan 22, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

MADRID (THE GUARDIAN) - Portugal and Juventus footballer Cristiano Ronaldo has admitted to committing tax fraud while playing for Real Madrid and agreed to pay an €18.8 million (S$29 million) fine after striking a deal with prosecutors and tax authorities in return for a 23-month suspended prison sentence.

Ronaldo, 33, had been accused of defrauding the authorities of €14.8 million in unpaid taxes between 2011 and 2014.

In 2017, Madrid's regional state prosecutor alleged that the player had used what it deemed to be a shell company in the Virgin Islands to "create a screen in order to hide his total income from Spain's tax office".

It said Ronaldo "intentionally" did not declare income of €28.4 million related to image rights, and declared €11.5m of earnings from 2011 to 2014 when his real income was almost €43 million.

The prosecutor also alleged that the forward falsely reported income as coming from real estate, which it said had greatly reduced his tax rate.

Ronaldo arrived in court in Madrid on Tuesday morning (Jan 22), wearing sunglasses and a black blazer and accompanied by his partner, Georgina Rodriguez.

His request to be allowed to enter the provincial court through an underground car park was denied.

"I am very well," the five-time Ballon d'Or winner told reporters outside the court after the brief hearing.

The hearing came six months after Ronaldo agreed a deal that would see him spared jail if he paid fines totalling almost €19 million.

In Spain, a judge can suspend sentences for two years or less for first-time offenders.

Meanwhile, the trial of Ronaldo's former Real Madrid teammate Xabi Alonso, also in court on Tuesday over accusations of tax fraud, was suspended, a court magistrate said.

Prosecutors were seeking a five-year jail sentence and a fine of €4 million for the Spaniard, who retired as a player in 2017, accusing him of defrauding the Spanish state of about €2 million between 2010 and 2012.

Alonso said he was confident he had not committed a crime and would have to wait while the magistrates evaluated his case.

"I'd be worried if I thought I had something to hide or something I didn't do right but, as that isn't the case, I am carrying on," Alonso told reporters.