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Lionel Messi: Soccer star handed 21-month sentence, set to avoid prison

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Posted at 7:59 AM, Jul 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-06 08:43:49-04

The good news for soccer star Lionel Messi is that he won’t be going to jail for defrauding the Spanish tax authorities. The bad news is that he’s been fined $2.3 million.

A Barcelona court ruled that between 2007 and 2009, Messi was guilty of tax fraud and that for each of those three years he should serve a sentence of seven months.

However, because this was the first time the Barcelona forward had committed an offense and his sentence was less than two years, the 29-year-old Messi won’t serve jail time as long as he doesn’t break the law again.

Argentina's national team player Lionel Messi adresses a press conference in East Rutherford, New Jersey on June 24, 2016. Argentina will face Chile on June 26 in their final match of the Copa America Centenario. / AFP / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Argentina’s national team player Lionel Messi adresses a press conference in East Rutherford, New Jersey on June 24, 2016.
Argentina will face Chile on June 26 in their final match of the Copa America Centenario. / AFP / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Messi’s father Jorge Messi was also handed a 21-month jail sentence and a $1.7 million for tax fraud, though like his son he won’t serve time as he also doesn’t have a criminal record.

Barcelona and Messi were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNN.

The Argentine’s legal representatives argued their client had no knowledge of his tax affairs. The sentence also reflects that Messi has no previous criminal record and that he has already paid back the money he owes — minus $23,600, which he now has to pay.

Messi is widely regarded as the best footballer on the planet and is Barca’s all-time leading goalscorer. During his time with the club, Messi has won the European Champions League on four occasions and eight Spanish league titles.

Forbes ranked Messi as the second-highest paid athlete on the planet, earning an estimated $81.4 million through his salary and various endorsement deals.