After defending the Champions League with Real Madrid last season, Cristiano Ronaldo returns from a summer holiday to see his preseason delayed due to a court hearing over tax fraud.
Football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo appeared in court on Monday after state prosecutors accused the four-time World Footballer of the Year of siphoning millions of euros, earned from picture rights, past Spanish authorities between 2011 and 2014.
A stage was set up and a throng of international media was waiting for the 32-year-old to speak having given his evidence, but Ronaldo headed straight home after 90 minutes in a court in Pozuelo de Alarcon, a wealthy suburb of Madrid where he lives.
A spokesman for the agency representing Ronaldo stated that a press statement would be released. According to a reporter from Spain’s second largest printed daily newspaper “El Mundo” who was inside the court, Ronaldo told the judge he had done nothing wrong and trusted his advisors.
Ronaldo is accused of having evaded 14.7 million euros ($17.3 million) in tax via a shell company based in the British Virgin Islands and another in Ireland, known for low corporate tax rates.
Prosecutors allege Ronaldo voluntarily took “advantage of a company structure created in 2010 to hide income generated in Spain from his image rights from tax authorities”.
Ronaldo has consistently said his “conscience is clear”, and was reportedly so upset that he threatened to leave Spain.
Should Ronaldo admit to wrongdoing and pay 50 million euros in returned taxes, fines and interest, his sentence would likely be reduced. Since extending his contract last November until 2021, Ronaldo is the highest paid sports star in the world with 79 million euros earned in 2016-2017, according to Forbes.
Ronaldo is not the only high profile football star to have been accused of tax fraud recently in Spain. Barcelona forward Lionel Messi was sentenced in May to 21 months in jail, though local media reported a month later that he is unlikely to serve time behind bars.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho also is accused of defrauding Spanish authorities to the tune of 3.3 million euros during 2011 and 2012, while coach of Real Madrid.