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Soccer Star Lionel Messi Faces Jail Time in Tax Fraud

Messi and his father were sentenced to 21 months in prison.

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Barcelona soccer star Lionel Messi plans to appeal a Spanish court decision to sentence him and his father to 21 months in jail, and millions of dollars in fines for tax fraud.

Argentine Messi, 29, was fined €2m euros (£1.7m; $2.2m) by the Barcelona court. Messi’s father was also fined  €1.5m for defrauding Spain of €4.1m over three years from 2007-09. Neither Messi, nor his father, is expected to serve time. In Spain, prison terms under two years can be served under probation.

The duo also face millions in fines for tax haves in Belize and Uruguay for earnings on Messi’s image. "The sentence is not correct and we are confident the appeal will show the defence was right," Messi's lawyers stated.

The lawyers believe "there is a good chance that the appeal will succeed.” Messi, they say, acted in good faith.

In August 2013, Messi was found guilty of three counts of tax fraud, the soccer player and his father have made a voluntary €5m "corrective payment” - a total equivalent to the alleged unpaid tax and interest.

Messi earns approximately €36m per year playing in Europe for Barcelona. An income of around €315m in the past decade, he is ranked 10th on Forbes magazine's list of the highest-earning athletes in the world. He most recently played with Argentina in the Copa America. Argentina lost to Chile in the Finals.

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