Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, who skipped El Clasico Miami on Saturday, appeared in a Spanish court on Monday, where he is facing allegations of tax evasion.
Ronaldo is accused of dodging $17.3 million in taxes by creating foreign shell companies to hide income generated in Spain from his image rights. He has denied the allegations, and expects his name to be cleared. He and FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi are among several soccer players who have been investigated by the Spanish tax authorities.
Messi was sentenced to 21 months in prison last year for allegedly evading $4.8 million in taxes from image rights. He appealed, and a court recently ruled he could pay a $296,000 fine instead.
Ronaldo spent an hour and a half in a Madrid court on Monday, pleading his case at a pre-trial hearing. A big crowd of media waited outside on the courthouse steps, and a lectern and speakers were set up, but Ronaldo left without speaking. He arrived and departed through an underground garage, according to media reports.
He later released this statement: “The Spanish tax service (Hacienda) knows the detail of all my income because we have given it to them. I have never hidden anything, nor did have I ever had the intention of evading taxes.
“I always do my tax declaration in a voluntary manner, as I think that we must all declare and pay taxes according to our income. Those who know me know that this is what I ask from my advisors -- that they keep everything up to date, and correctly paid, as I do not want any problems.”
He went on to say he will make no further comments on the case until it is resolved.
“Now is the moment to let justice do its work,” he said. “I believe in justice and I hope that, also in this case, there is a just decision. And with the goal of avoiding any unnecessary pressures or contributing to any kind of `parallel justice,’ I have decided that I will not make any more comments about this issue until the decision is made.”
Real Madrid, which lost El Clasico Miami 3-2 to FC Barcelona, headed from Miami to Chicago, where the team is playing on Wednesday at Soldier Field against the MLS All-Stars. Ronaldo is not scheduled to be at that game. He will rejoin his team on Aug. 5 for preseason training.