Alexis Sánchez, the Manchester United striker, has been given a 16-month suspended jail sentence for tax fraud, but will avoid having to serve any jail time.
The 29-year-old Chilean player, who joined Man U from Arsenal last month, had potentially faced a prison sentence over charges of having avoided Spanish taxes of around €1m (£886,000).
As reported, Sanchez admitted the fraud via a video link to a Barcelona court last January, confessing to two “crimes against the Spanish Treasury” totalling €983,443. At the time, Sánchez was the top scorer in the English Premier League, and he is still said to be the league’s highest-paid player, earning an estimated £14m a year after tax.
Sánchez was said to have avoided paying tax by “simulating” the transfer of his image rights to Numidia, an offshore shell company based in Malta, which he owned a 99% stake in, to avoid paying €587,677 in 2012 and €395,766 in 2013.
According to reports carried by the Spanish news agency website Europa Press last year, Sánchez returned the money before the Barcelona hearing, and it was thought at that point that a deal would probably be reached that would enable him to avoid having to go to trial.
Latest player targeted by Spanish authorities
Sánchez is the latest football player to be targeted for tax evasion by the Spanish authorities, alongside similar efforts by the UK’s HMRC to go after high-profile tax evaders and avoiders.
Last July, Real Madrid’s “world footballer of the year” Cristiano Ronaldo appeared before a Spanish court to face charges of having evaded the equivalent of €14.7m (US$17.3m) in tax. As reported, if the case goes to trial and he ends up being found guilty, the Portuguese forward could face a fine of “at least €28m” and even a potential prison sentence of three-and-a-half years.
In 2016 Barcelona’s Argentinan football star Lionel Messi was handed a 21-month prison sentence after being found guilty by a Spanish court. He was later told he could pay €252,000 in lieu of jail time.
Sánchez’s rep: ‘clarification’
On Wednesday evening, hours after Sánchez’s suspended sentence was announded, the player re-tweeted a “public declaration and clarification”, in Spanish, (below) that had been posted by his agent, Fernando Felicevich. It explains, among other things, that “the alleged crimes committed [by Sánchez] are forms of contracting that have been used for a long time and by countless players” in Spain, “tacit and expressly admitted by the Treasury in Spain in the past”.
“I kindly ask the fans to inform themselves well before giving their opinion and to the mass media to avoid being used as a tool of undue pressure in the processes that will continue to occur,” Felicevich’s tweet concludes.