Messi´s prison sentence swapped for fine

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The Barcelona state prosecutor said on Friday it was not opposed to substituting a 21-month prison sentence for a fine for tax fraud handed down to soccer player Lionel Messi, as long as the fine was the maximum allowed under law.

In line with what has been proposed by the prosecutors, a judge will now make the final decision.

Now the Barcelona court must proceed with sentencing the star and his father either to prison or agree with the prosecutor and settle for a fine as punishment.

The talks apparently did not go well, however, and it was only when Messi's close friend and teammate Luis Suarez intervened that the Argentine changed his mind about leaving Barca, according to Mundo Deportivo.

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He insinuated that Messi's tax case was unfairly dragged out for years but then quickly resolved this week so that the cases of La Liga's two star players would not be under probe at the same time. Judges usually follow the state prosecutor's recommendations in Spain.

Messi is just one of a number of footballers to have been accused of defrauding the Spanish government in recent years.

Messi and his father defrauded the Spanish tax office of 4.1 million euros between 2007 and 2009 by using a web of shell companies based in Belize, Switzerland and Uruguay to evade taxes on income from the player's image rights.

Spain's Supreme Court rejected in May an appeal by the Barcelona talisman and stood by the Catalan regional court's 21-month suspended prison sentence.