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Lionel Messi's prison sentence upheld

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The Spanish Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the 21-month prison sentence handed down by a Barcelona court to FC Barcelona's Argentinian star forward Lionel Messi for tax fraud.

Spain's highest court also upheld the conviction of Messi's father, although it reduced his prison term from 21 to 15 months.

Messi, a contemporary soccer legend, had been found guilty on three tax fraud counts after he evaded a total of 4.1 million euros ($4.59 million) in taxes accrued from the exploitation of his image rights.

Jorge Messi's reduced sentence came as a result of having returned part of the money owed to the Spanish tax authorities.

This mitigating circumstance was already applied to Messi by the Barcelona court in July; now the Supreme Court has dictated that the same measure must be applied to his father, who was accused of aiding and abetting his son's tax fraud.

The court's verdict also included a fine of two million euros ($2.23 million) for the soccer player and another 1.3 million euro ($1.45 million) fine for his father.

However, their sentencing does not imply that both Messis end up physically serving time in prison, as it is standard policy in Spain that any prison sentence under two years is suspended by the court handing the verdict, as long as the defendant does not indulge in any additional criminal malfeasance.

The final word regarding their fate remains in the hands of the Barcelona court that signed the sentence which has now been ratified by the Supreme Court.