Barcelona star Mascherano admits to tax fraud charges

AFP , Thursday 29 Oct 2015

FC Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano, from Argentina, leaves the court after answering questions in a tax fraud case in Gava, Spain, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015 (AP)

Barcelona's Javier Mascherano admitted to two counts of tax fraud totalling just over 1.5 million euros ($1.64 million) before a judge on Thursday.

Mascherano arrived at the court in Gava, a coastal town on the outskirts of Barcelona where the player resides, at 9:00 am local time (0800 GMT) accompanied by his lawyers. His testimony before the court lasted barely five minutes.

Spanish state prosecutors alleged the former West Ham and Liverpool midfielder failed to declare more than 1.5 million euros in earnings in 2011 and 2012 by ceding his image rights to companies he owns in Portugal and the United States.

"Mascherano admitted the facts of the two counts of tax fraud, so there was no need to interrogate him," said a judicial source.

A court filing released last month confirmed Mascherano deposited nearly 1.75 million euros with the tax authorities on September 9 to repay the amount owed plus interest.

The judge must now decide whether the case proceeds to trial.

However, given that player has admitted his guilt and paid the amount owed plus interest it is possible his defence and the prosecution will come to an agreement in the form of a fine before going to trial.

Mascherano is the latest high-profile footballer to be scrutinised by the tax authorities in Spain over the declaration of money made through image rights.

Barcelona and Argentina teammate Lionel Messi will stand trial alongside his father for alleged tax fraud totalling 4.16 million euros relating to his image rights between 2006 and 2009.

Mascherano has also been in trouble on the field as he was handed a two-game ban on Wednesday for insulting the referee as he was sent-off in Barca's 3-1 win over Eibar last weekend.

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