January 22, 2019 / 9:13 AM / 5 months ago

Ronaldo accepts fine for tax evasion, avoids jail

MADRID (Reuters) - Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo was fined almost 19 million euros ($21.6 million) for tax fraud on Tuesday but will avoid serving a 23-month prison sentence after agreeing a deal.

Portugal's soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo arrives with his girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez to appear in court on a trial for tax fraud in Madrid, Spain, January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Susana Vera

Ronaldo, holding hands with his Spanish fiancée Georgina Rodriguez, came out of the court room smiling, pausing to sign autographs before leaving in a black van.

The 33-year-old Juventus forward, who played for Real Madrid from 2009-18, agreed to settle the case by paying an 18.8 million euro fine and accepting a suspended jail sentence.

Under Spanish law, a first offender can serve anything less than a two-year sentence under probation and Ronaldo will not have to go to prison.

His court appearance lasted about 15 minutes as the five-times world footballer of the year only needed to sign off on the previously settled agreement.

The trial of Ronaldo’s former Real Madrid team mate Xabi Alonso, also in court on Tuesday over accusations of tax fraud, was suspended, a court magistrate said.

Prosecutors were seeking a five-year jail sentence and a fine of 4 million euros for Spaniard Alonso, who retired as a player in 2017, accusing him of defrauding the Spanish state of some 2 million euros between 2010 and 2012.

Alonso said he was confident he had not committed a crime and would have to wait while the magistrates evaluated his case.

“I’d be worried if I thought I had something to hide or something I didn’t do right but as that isn’t the case I am carrying on,” Alonso told reporters outside the court.

Ronaldo had to enter the courtroom through the front door after his request for special security measures to avoid the spotlight was denied on Monday.

In 2017, Ronaldo denied the accusation that he knowingly used a business structure to hide income generated by his image rights in Spain between 2011 and 2014.

After reaching the deal, he paid a fine of 5.7 million euros, plus interest of about 1 million euros, in July 2018, the prosecutor’s office said last week.

($1 = 0.8803 euros)

Additional reporting by Miguel Gutierrez; Writing by Paul Day; editing by John Stonestreet and Ed Osmond

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