Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi’s jail term for tax fraud will stand, Spain’s Supreme Court has held.
The 29-year-old Argentinean forward was convicted with his father Jorge of defrauding Spain of €4.1m (£3.5m) in taxes.
Messi was sentenced to 21 months in jail but will not serve time behind bars because in Spain prison terms of less then two years are usually suspended.
The five-time world footballer of the year had failed to declare to the Spanish tax authorities income from the exploitation of his image rights.
Miles Dean, founding partner of Milestone International Tax Consultants, said: “There is no doubt that a player such as Messi has extremely valuable image rights and that it is possible to structure their exploitation in a tax efficient manner.
“The lesson here is not to risk pushing boundaries and to always seek professional advice.”
Both Messi and his father were convicted of three counts of fraud after using companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on income relating to contracts with companies such as Pepsi-Cola, Danone, Adidas and Procter & Gamble.
The Supreme Court did reduce his father’s sentence to 15 months because he had paid some of the taxes.