Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano has been sentenced to one-year in prison relating to a £1.1m tax fraud, however the footballer is set to avoid spending any time behind bars.
The Argentina international was handed a custodial sentence at a court appearance on Thursday, at which he was pleading to avoid any jail time.
During the brief appearance in court, he was given the custodial sentence and agreed to pay an 800,000 euro fine and cover the legal costs.
However, because sentences shorter than two years are not usually enforced in Spain, Mascherano looks set to avoid any jail time. He had already paid back the unpaid tax plus almost 200,000 euros in interest.
The 31-year-old had previously admitted two counts of fraud. It’s alleged that he attempted to conceal earnings from his image rights in 2011 and 2012, his first two full years as a Barcelona player, using companies he owns abroad.
Mascherano has since released a statement explaining what happened.
“After agreeing to come to Barcelona, I hired a prestigious Spanish tax firm, with renowned professionals and an excellent reputation. In agreement with my situation, they recommended certain structures to me, all within the legal framework, always notifying me that the procedures were common, transparent and in accordance with the law.
“I was advised by said professionals from the year 2010 until 2014, when I decided to change firms before the process was opened against me and with evidence that my problem was no longer a possibility but a reality.
“My new advisors recommended I pay the taxes demanded by the Treasury, presenting what they called ‘corrections’.
“Now, finally and following a bitter delay, we have reached this agreement, which restores to me the peace of mind of having fulfilled my obligations.
“I’m a professional sportsman, I don’t have huge knowledge of tax or legal matters. As such, I lean on the people who handle these technical and, for me, complex terms.
“Throughout my career I’ve been an honest and responsible person, respecting my team-mates, the clubs for whom I have played and the countries where I have chosen to live.
“This situation I’ve had to go through has given me greater experience, from which I move on stronger and relaxed as I knew things were back in order.
“I reserve the possibility of taking action against those who made incorrect assessments and recommended things to me that were not correct.”
Mascherano has been a regular in the Barcelona side this season, including in last night’s Copa del Rey victory over Athletic Bilbao.