Football megastar Cristiano Ronaldo appeared in court near Madrid on Monday accused of evading millions of euros in taxes, the latest player to fall foul of Spain’ s taxman.
The 32- year -old entered the court in Pozuelo de Alarcon , a wealthy suburb of Madrid where he lives, in a car with tinted windows via an underground garage to avoid the glare of the dozens of cameras gathered outside .
The player is expected to speak to the press after his court hearing. A podium was set up outside the courthouse behind metal barriers .
The Portuguese star — the world ’ s highest paid athlete according to Forbes magazine — follows in the steps of his arch – rival , Barcelona forward and Argentina star Lionel Messi, who was found guilty of the same offence last year .
Other footballers have also recently run into trouble with Spain’ s taxman, some of them already convicted and others under investigation .
Prosecutors accuse Ronaldo of having evaded 14. 7 million euros ( $17. 3 million) in tax .
They allege he took “ advantage of a company structure created in 2010 to hide income generated in Spain from his image rights from tax authorities” .
They say this was a “ voluntary and conscious breach of his fiscal obligations in Spain” .
– ‘ Conscience clear’ –
Prosecutors accuse the four -time world player of the year of evading tax via a shell company based in the British Virgin Islands and another in Ireland , known for low corporate tax rates.
In addition, they say the Real Madrid striker only declared 11. 5 million euros of Spanish -related income from 2011 to 2014, while what he really earned during that time was close to 43 million euros.
And finally , they accuse him of “ voluntarily” refusing to include 28. 4 million euros in income linked to the sale of his image rights for the 2015 to 2020 period to a Spanish company.
Ronaldo is expected to declare himself not guilty during his closed door court appearance . He has defended himself , saying his “ conscience is clear” .
His agent ’ s company Gestifute has also denied any “ fiscal set-up” and said “ the player didn ’ t hide anything” .
But the allegations still took their toll on the man with the “ CR7” brand. According to press reports , Real ’ s all – time top goalscorer threatened to leave Spain over the affair , giving supporters a fright .
He has since hinted he will stay on , telling Spanish sports daily Marca that he would like to continue to win trophies for Real .
If he were put on trial and found guilty , Ronaldo would risk “ a fine of at least 28 million” euros and could potentially be jailed for three -and-a- half years, the Gestha union of experts at Spain’ s Inland Revenue has said .
Since extending his contract last November until 2021, Ronaldo is the highest paid sports star in the world with $93 million earned in 2016-2017, according to Forbes.
– Super- agent Mendes –
Ronaldo is not the only footballer to fall foul of authorities in Spain, which is only just recovering from a damaging economic crisis that saw countless people lose their jobs and inequalities rise .
Messi was sentenced to a 21-month jail sentence and 2. 09-million-euro fine last year for tax fraud .
His prison sentence has since been replaced by another fine of 252, 000 euros , which corresponds to 400 euros for each day of jail .
Barcelona ’ s Argentine defender Javier Mascherano , meanwhile , agreed a one- year suspended sentence with authorities for tax fraud last year .
Brazil star Neymar, another Barcelona forward , and his parents are also due to stand trial for alleged corruption over his transfer from Santos in 2013.
Real have not been spared either.
Apart from Ronaldo , former player Angel di Maria, Portuguese defender Fabio Coentrao and Jose Mourinho , who coached the club from 2010 to 2013, have all been accused of tax fraud .
All are clients of super -agent Jorge Mendes, who was also questioned and put under official investigation last month by a Spanish court investigating alleged tax evasion by Monaco striker Radamel Falcao, another footballer in his stable.