Messi’s Spanish jail sentence for tax fraud to stand

Messi and his father Jorge
  • As Nepal’s prime minister announces resignation

A 21-month jail term handed down last year to Barcelona and Argentina footballer Lionel Messi has been confirmed by Spain’s Supreme Court, but he is unlikely to go to prison.

Messi and his father Jorge, who manages his finances, were both convicted in 2016 of defrauding Spain of €4.1m (£3.5m; $4.6m) in taxes.

Jorge Messi’s jail term was reduced because he paid some of the taxes.

In Spain, prison terms of under two years can be served under probation.

The case will now return to the court in Barcelona that handed down the original judgement.

Lionel Messi, a five-time world footballer of the year, has denied any involvement and told his trial in June 2016: “I only worried about playing football.”

But in its decision on Wednesday, the court said: “It defies logic to concede that someone who earns a large income does not know that he must pay taxes on it.”

Both men were originally convicted of three counts of fraud, for using tax havens in Belize and Uruguay between 2007 and 2009, and were also given heavy fines.

They were found guilty of resorting to fictitious companies to evade Spanish taxes on income from companies using Lionel Messi’s image rights.

Jorge Messi’s jail term was reduced from 21 months to 15 by the Supreme Court to take into account the money he had since handed to the tax authorities.

In the meantime, Nepal’s prime minister announced his resignation Wednesday so the leader of his coalition partner party can succeed him, in line with an agreement between the two parties.

“With the pledge to continue working for the upliftment of the country and people as a politician, parliamentarian and citizen, I announce my resignation,” Pushpa Kamal Dahal said in a speech broadcast over television.

He was to meet President Bidhya Devi Bhandari later Wednesday to formally hand over his resignation.

Dahal of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) became prime minister in August 2016 with the support of Nepali Congress, the country’s largest party. The two parties agreed to switch prime ministers after nine months, when Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba would become Nepal’s leader.

It will take weeks for Deuba to assume office, and Dahal will serve as acting prime minister in the interim.

The two parties have enough votes in parliament to obtain the simple majority vote needed to form a new coalition government.

During his time in office, Dahal was able to hold local elections to municipal and village councils for the first time in 20 years. There also was a slight improvement in Nepal’s economy.

It was Dahal’s second time as prime minister. He became prime minister in 2008 after his party won a majority of seats in an election. He resigned in protest when the president reinstated the army chief he had fired.

Dahal led a Maoist insurgency between 1996 and 2006, when they gave up their armed revolt and joined a United Nations-monitored peace process. The Maoists locked up their guns and their fighters were later integrated into the national army.

They contested the 2008 election and won the most seats, but dropped to third position in 2013 polls.

In the 10 years of fighting, more than 17,000 people were killed.

BBC with additional report from Abc