Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez faces a possible jail sentence after admitting to tax fraud in Spain of almost €1m, committed in 2012 and 2013, while he was playing for Barcelona in La Liga.
Appearing via a video link in the Barcelona court yesterday, Sanchez admitted the fraud in a short statement that took no more than a couple of minutes, confessing to two ‘crimes against the Spanish Treasury’ totalling €983,443. As a result of the admission the star striker, currently the top scorer in this year’s English Premier League, could be forced to go to jail.
The complaint against Sanchez which was filed by the Spanish Tax Agency, prosecutor Miguel Angel Perez de Gregorio argued that the 28-year-old evaded payment of tax from earnings received for his image rights via a company based in Malta.
Sanchez 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 on Spanish news agency website Europa Press, the Chilean international has already returned that money and it is likely, therefore, that an agreement will be reached for the player to avoid having to go to trial.
Possible prison sentence
The fine will be agreed by the player’s defence team and the treasury; as will any possible prison sentence, with Spanish laws meaning that short prison sentences are likely to be suspended.
He is the latest in a long line of former and current Barcelona players that have been prosecuted or are under investigation for tax evasion by the Spanish authorities.
Last month Sanchez also had his luxury four-bed Spanish villa seized as part of an ongoing tax investigation, with Spanish authorities claiming he owes them €3.7m in unpaid taxes.
Sanchez is the latest in a long line of former and current Barcelona players that have been prosecuted or are under investigation for tax evasion by the Spanish authorities. Barcelona’s Argentinian striker Lionel Messi, for example, was found guilty of tax fraud and sentenced to 21 months in prison last summer; but has not spent any time behind bars due to his lack of prior convictions and the sentence being under two years.
Brazilian Neymar has also been at the centre of high profile tax fraud accusations in recent months, while Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano was handed a 12 month suspended sentence last year.
In possibly the most extreme case yet, prosecutors are, according to reports, believed to be pressing for former Barcelona and Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o to spend more than 10 years behind bars for alleged tax crimes committed while at the Catalan club.
In December, as reported, a group of 12 European newspapers, including El Mundo Deportivo, accused Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho of avoiding tax by channelling money to offshore tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands.
Dutch newspaper NRC, alleges that Ronaldo moved €63.5m to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) at the end of 2014, while another claims that Mourinho moved €12m into a Swiss account owned by a BVI-based company. Both Ronaldo and Mourinho have denied the claims.
This series of allegations have been taken from the release of 18 million documents of leaked data, under the “Football Leaks” banner, which according to various media outlets reveal widespread corruption in football. The European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) consortium has said that it will release more details from the leaked documents in the coming months.