Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo was fined €18.8 million ($21.6 million) for tax fraud on Tuesday, Reuters reports. Specifically, prosecutors said, he dodged taxes in Spain between 2010 and 2014, when he was playing for Real Madrid. By agreeing to settle the case, he will avoid a potential 23-month prison sentence.
"Under Spanish law, a first offender can serve anything less than a two-year sentence under probation and Ronaldo will not have to go to prison," Reuters reports, adding: "His court appearance lasted about 15 minutes as [he] only needed to sign off on the previously settled agreement."
The 33-year-old is also facing a rape allegation in the United States. Kathryn Mayorga filed a lawsuit in Nevada in September 2018 saying she was sexually assaulted by Ronaldo in his Las Vegas hotel room in 2009. Ronaldo has denied the accusation.
The soccer star, who left Real Madrid last year after nine seasons to join the Italian club Juventus, is one of the richest athletes in the world. He was the third highest-paid athlete of 2018 and the second highest-paid soccer player, earning $108 million for the year as of early June, according to Forbes. Over $60 million of that came from his salary and winnings.
Another $47 million came from endorsements, including partnerships with Herbalife, EA Sports, watch companies and even cable providers. His lifetime contract with Nike, which was made in 2016, is worth more than $1 billion.
Ronaldo's former Real Madrid teammate, Xabi Alonso, also appeared in court on Tuesday over accusations of tax fraud, Reuters reports, and could face jail time.
Other star soccer players have been found guilty of evading taxes in the past few years, the BBC reports, including FC Barcelona captain Lionel Messi. In 2016, a Barcelona court convicted Messi and his father of defrauding Spain of over €4 million between 2007 and 2009. Both avoided prison after paying hefty fines.
"The recent crackdown on high-profile footballers follows the removal of a tax exemption in 2010," the BBC reports. "Known as the 'Beckham law,' it had allowed footballers to curb their taxes."
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