Spanish politician Alberto Garzon, who is a member of the Communist party, suggests there is no chance Barcelona forward Lionel Messi will receive a prison sentence if he is found guilty of tax evasion.
Garzon implies the player's stature will see any punishment limited to a payment he's already made. He criticised Cristobal Montoro, minister of finance, saying, "In this country, if your name's Messi, and you pay whatever money's necessary and negotiate with his (Montoro's) ministry, you don't go to prison. That's not justice; it's unworthy of the name," per Marca.
El Pais tweeted an image of Garzon:
An investigation into Messi and his father, Jorge, continues to drag on. Both are accused of defrauding authorities of more than €4 million between 2007-09, facilitating the process by using companies in Belize and Uruguay to sell Messi's image rights. They deny any wrongdoing but made a "corrective payment" of €5 million in August 2013, per BBC News.
As noted in Marca, the public prosecution office suggests Leo may have been "unaware" of illegal activity being carried out by his father.
However, the judge has ruled this doesn't necessarily make the Barcelona star ineligible for punishment, as reported by BBC News: "In this type of crime, it is not necessary for someone to have complete knowledge of all the accounting and business operations nor the exact quantity, rather it is sufficient to be aware of the designs to commit fraud and consent to them."
Marca suggests Messi "will almost certainly avoid jail." A sentence would likely mean the end of his top-class football career and would impact the player's reputation and lasting legacy.
This ongoing case hasn't impacted the player's form this season. Messi is second behind Cristiano Ronaldo in Europe's Golden Shoe race, having scored 35 goals in La Liga this season, per WhoScored.com. More importantly for Barca, the 27-year-old has overcome last year's poor bout of form to find his prolific best.
Luis Enrique's team are closing in on the Spanish title, have a Copa del Rey final to play and are in the last four of the Champions League. Messi's play has been a huge feature of each run, but B/R UK's Thom Gibbs doesn't believe the Blaugrana can be considered Champions League favourites:
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Garzon's comments are sure to spark plenty of debate in Spain, particularly if Messi is found guilty and then given a lenient punishment.
The player remains quiet on the subject and appears focused on leading Barca to success.