Cristiano Ronaldo was recently seen arriving at a Madrid court, dressed in a smart black coat, diamond jewelry dazzling in the sun. It’s hard to believe he smiling when about to be slapped with a $21.6 million fine for fraudulently hiding income from the Spanish tax authorities. Though having an estimated net worth of $450 million dollars, and a Nike lifetime contract to around $1 billion dollars, the fine is not going to cause him many issues.
But where did the tax allegations come from?
A series of whistleblowers and investigations into the income and business dealings of wealthy footballers has shown a darker side to the footballing world, with Ronaldo’s case being one of the most recent. The star was handed a huge fine and 23 months in jail, but any sentence under two years is rarely served in Spain. Basically, Ronaldo was off the hook, as his later Instagram, complete with ‘thumbs up’ emoji pointed out. A hefty fine is not hefty to Ronaldo, let’s face it. This is a man who’s legs alone are insured for $144 million, owning huge businesses and being the name on many an endorsement deal. This is before you factor in his wages for playing weekly for Juventus.
Ronaldo was accused of intentionally not declaring income from many of his businesses and using a Virgin Islands-based firm to receive and funnel cash.
All of this came from an earlier boom in Spain’s economy. This led to the golden era of Spanish football, and the Real Madrid ‘Galactico’ era. Big named stars such a Figo, Kaka, Zidane, and Beckham were all signed for huge price tags. After this time however, the economy slowed down drastically and in 2010 a law referred to as the ‘Beckham Law’ was passed. This prevented tax evasion techniques which may have been employed in the past, and as a result, investigations uncovered several big names involved in what the Spanish Government decided were unlawful tax evasion schemes. Charges have been faced by Modric, Falcao, Di Maria, Mascherano, Viera, Lionel Messi, and Neymar. Some of these cases hit the headlines, some didn’t, but most did not understand that they had committed a crime.
The change came when Rui Pinto was arrested in Budapest. Portuguese Pinto is considered to be behind the ‘Football Leaks’ story, but another law is doing a lot to protect him, a whistleblower law in Hungary. This is because Pinto believes the work he did to uncover such dealings led to the courts being able to investigate cases, such as the Messi and Ronaldo examples. It’s bizarre in so many ways, and hard to understand, but covers a huge amount of dollars.
Of course, soccer is a world-wide revelation and hugely popular in almost every country on the planet. We are talking about some of the biggest names in the game, and with huge court dates hanging over them. This all highlights the dark side of an international sport which has long been run in what Pinto considers to be troubling ways.
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