Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo has appeared in court facing allegations of tax evasion running into millions of euros.
Ronaldo, who has won the Ballon D'or four times in addition to his numerous titles at club and international level, is accused of evading €14.7m (£13.1m) of tax owed since 2010, despite being reportedly the world's highest paid athlete.
Denying the accusation with the statement that his 'conscience is clear', Ronaldo is just one of many footballers the Spanish tax authorities have pursued. Earlier this year, reports suggested that he was furious with the accusations and felt that he was being unduly targeted by the authorities, prompting a wave of speculation that he might move to China or back to former club United.
Ronaldo's longtime rival, Barcelona's Lionel Messi, was given a 21-month prison sentence after being found guilty of a similar charge last year. The courts ultimately ruled he could pay €252,000 (£225,313) in place of jail time. While that might seem odd to UK readers, such plea deals are relatively common within the Spanish legal system.
The Portugese captain is alleged to have taken "advantage of a company structure created in 2010 to hide income generated in Spain from his image rights from tax authorities", amounting to a "voluntary and conscious breach of his fiscal obligations in Spain".
Ronaldo denies all accusations but if found guilty, could face a huge fine of at least €28m (£25m), according to experts at Spain's inland revenue, as well as a three-and-a-half year prison sentence.
The Portuguese European Championship winger is one of just a few football stars in Spain who have found themselves mired in tax controversies and court appearances in recent times. Possibly PSG-bound Brazilian Neymar was cleared of fraud but still faces a corruption charge in relation to his move to Barcelona from Santos in 2013, while Croatian Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric is currently under investigation for perjury.
Modric's case is arguably more serious as it could lead to a lengthy prison sentence. It relates to alleged lies told to a court in his home country over financial deals involving former Dinamo Zagreb director Zdravko Mamic in relation to his move to Tottenham in 2008.
Meanwhile, back in Spain, Ronaldo left court without speaking to the media, declining to make a statement regarding his alleged tax evasion. The case continues.
Featured Image Credit: PA
Topics: Cristiano Ronaldo