/Soccer star Ronaldo to answer tax fraud charges in Spain

Soccer star Ronaldo to answer tax fraud charges in Spain

MADRID (Reuters) – Cristiano Ronaldo is due in court in Spain on Tuesday to answer charges of evading taxes during his nine-year reign as Spanish side Real Madrid’s all-time highest scorer.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football – World Cup – Group B – Portugal vs Morocco – Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia – June 20, 2018 Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Carl Recine/File Photo

The Portuguese striker is expected to plead guilty after he struck a deal last year with authorities in Spain to settle the case by paying an 18.8 million euro ($21.4 million) fine and accepting a suspended jail sentence.

The 33-year-old Juventus forward is unlikely to serve any time in jail, as the 23-month term prosecutors have requested is within a two-year threshold that can be served on probation for a first offence under Spanish law.

Ronaldo asked for special security measures for accessing the court, but the request was denied, a Madrid judge said in a statement. Spanish media reported he had asked to be allowed to enter the courtroom via the car park.

Officials say Tuesday’s hearing will be short, and only require Ronaldo to confirm he accepts the deal.

Ronaldo’s agent in Portugal did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

In 2017, Ronaldo denied the accusation that he knowingly used a business structure created to allegedly hide income his image rights generated in Spain between 2011 and 2014.

He had paid a fine of 5.7 million euros, plus interest of about 1 million euros, in July 2018, the prosecutor’s office said last week.

Between 2005 and 2010, the so-called “Beckham law” allowed foreign soccer players in Spain to curb their tax payments.

It was lifted as financial crisis strained state coffers and prosecutors set their sights on the tax affairs of household names of the soccer world including Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

Ronaldo’s former team mate Xabi Alonso is also due in court on Tuesday to respond to charges in a separate tax fraud case, in which prosecutors are seeking a five-year jail term and a 4 million fine.

Alonso, who was part of Spain’s World Cup-winning national team before retiring from the game in 2017, is accused of defrauding the Spanish state of two million euros between 2010 and 2012. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

($1 = 0.8802 euros)

Reporting by Isla Binnie, editing by Andrei Khalip and Alison Williams

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