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October 2016
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What a mess(i). Yet more dodgy dealings involving FC Barcelona and its players.

By Tony Attwood

In a recent article I asked if there was no end to the criminal behaviour of people associated with FC Barcelona and some other clubs.

The answer of course is no, there is no end.  Today we hear that Lionel Messi has been sentenced to 21 months in prison after the Catalonia Court found him guilty of three counts of tax fraud.  It was so predictable that hardly an eyebrow was raised.

Messi, who constantly blamed his father during the case, saying he was the one who did all the money laundering (sorry financial arrangements), will perhaps be little comforted by the fact that his dad also got 21 months in prison for the same three crimes.

The sentence can be appealed through the Spanish supreme court, and indeed under Spanish law all prison sentences under two years (which it most conveniently is by three months) can be served on probation.  So if Messi can keep his hands off the dodgy money for 21 months neither party is likely to go to prison.

Messi also has to pay a fine of around 2 million euros (as I write this about £1.7million but probably closer to £3m by the time you read this, given the state of the British economy today).  His father hsa to pay 1.5 million euros for the crimes.  

Messi denied any knowledge of any wrong doing, and I am not sure how that plays with a Spanish court.  In England it doesn’t usually wash, since the courts tend to argue that we all have a duty to ensure that our advisers and those who act on our behalf are behaving legally.

Behind Messi there was a complex series of companies in dubious tax havens around the world such as Panama, which held the finances from Messi’s image rights as then wended their way to final, equally dubious, destinations.

Interestingly although many papers have looked at Messi’s financial matters few have ever raised the issue as to why Messi and co might feel it necessary to avoid tax, when a) the tax regime in Spain is fairly modest and b) he earns such a phenomenal amount of money any way. 

Or indeed why there are so many criminal legal cases surrounding Barcelona.

Interestingly however for those of us in the UK, Mr Messi was asked in court if he knew that the money he was moving around passed through Britain on its way to Belize and Uruguay.  This is interesting because recently journalist Roberto Saviano, who is highly regarded as a man who has written exposés of the Mafia stated in a speech, “If I asked you what is the most corrupt place on Earth you might tell me well it’s Afghanistan, maybe Greece, Nigeria, the South of Italy and I will tell you it’s the UK.

“It’s not the bureaucracy, it’s not the police, it’s not the politics but what is corrupt is the financial capital. 90 per cent of the owners of capital in London have their headquarters offshore.

“Jersey and the Cayman’s are the access gates to criminal capital in Europe and the UK is the country that allows it.”

The Independent expanded on the theme commenting that, “Many of the criminal corporate activities within the City of London which have dominated the headlines over the past decade are not classified as corruption by Transparency International.

“Instead, the media and financial regulators refer to these institutionalised corporate crimes as “inappropriate conduct” or “mis-selling”.”

So it would be nice to think that the UK government will now start searching for what happened to the Messi funds as they moved through England, but I suspect not.

Messi however was unmoved. “I knew we signed agreements with various sponsors who paid x amount of money, and that I had to do adverts, photographs and all that stuff. But I had no idea where the money was going.”

Prosecutors in the Messi case showed that Belize and Uruguay were used to conceal earnings from image rights.

But none of this will stop Messi playing in the Premier League if he wants to since all he has to do is obtain a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) based on a player’s sporting ability.  This is then given to the Football Association who approves the application on behalf of the Home Office.  Since the FA has been shown repeatedly to be financially inept, and itself gets through vast amounts of government (ie tax-payers’) money each year, spending it on whatever it feels like (largely known corrupt organisations like Fifa), it is unlikely they will raise any concerns.

Normally criminal offences which result in a prison sentence of more than one year will result in an application being automatically rejected, but it is hard to see the FA standing up to anything or anyone if a loophole can be found. Or created.  Or invented.

So Messi now joins the Barcelona mainstream of fraudsters, along with Neymar (fined round about £40m by a Brazilian court for tax evasion, and Javier Mascherano (with a 12-month prison sentence for tax avoidance).

It seems Barcelona are impervious to the law as it applies to normal people, and those who endlessly support or promote the club are of course endlessly encouraging them to get away with it.

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8 comments to What a mess(i). Yet more dodgy dealings involving FC Barcelona and its players.

  • Ken1945

    Is it me or does all this seem rather strange that no Real Madrid player is involved in any way?
    Isn’t it true that RM have been bankrolled by the Spanish Royal family for many years?
    This makes it all more intriguing that Barcelona are suddenly being called out.
    Yes they are guilty, but surely not just their players are involved in tax evasion?
    Any news on when the FA and UEFA will look into the Olympic stadium fiasco?

  • GoingGoingGooner

    And FC Barcelona keep up the propaganda offensive

    “The club, in agreement with the criteria expressed by the government prosecution service, considers the player to be free of criminal liability,”…I guess the fine, and the suspended prison sentence that were imposed were mere administrative measures…

  • WalterBroeckx

    And even yesterday I read that Barcelona have to pay 47M euro back to a real estate agency because they didn’t do what they had to do in a land deal.

    All very messy what they do in Barcelona.

    As the spanish waiter said in Fawlty Towers: I know nothink 😉

  • porter

    but what is corrupt is the financial capital.

    Which is precisely why the pound has collapsed against the dollar :- “” THEY ARE MAKING MONEY “” as they do whenever there is political uncertainty.

    As for Barca and Messi they are people with money and just like the ones above they are just as corrupt.

  • porter

    According to AS Real Madrid are in the process of issuing proceedings against the accountancy firm that did the figures in their deal with their city council. Part of their opening statement to the media cast an inference that the figures were wrong because the firm used by the prosecutor is based in Barcelona and did not know the value of land in Madrid.
    Just another powerful organisation trying to circumnavigate their way around the system I suppose..

  • Jammy J

    I wonder what the prison sentence would be, if your average Joe stole over a million pounds. I’m fairly certain it would be more than 21 months of probation. Hopefully they get him on tag, so that his curfew prevents him from playing some matches haha.

  • Menace

    21 months it is & a tasty fine.

  • Andy Mack

    There’s a difference between;
    1) Using tax legal loopholes
    2) Bending the line
    3) Using illegal means
    Many wealthy (and quite a few a ‘average joes’ use the 1st option.
    Plenty of greedy people use the 2nd option (with or without their knowledge)
    Only those with either dirty money or with egos that think they’re too important to be caught, do the 3rd option.
    Messi and his farther are firmly ‘option 3’ guys.

    As for why, only the aaa like to throw money away and give more that they need to.
    If you pay tax of 1m but can get away with paying 750k then most of us would.
    Some would use the 250k saved for a new car whilst some will give it to their favourite charity. The ‘to charity’ guys do it because it’s money they earned and they feel they should have some control over where it goes.
    When governments (politicians and civil servants) stop spending taxes like it’s their own money then maybe the people that pay the tax will do so a bit more willingly… well, some will 😀