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Soccer star Leo Messi sentenced to 21 months in prison

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Messi Sentenced 21 Months in Prison

Soccer star Leo Messi and his father have been sentenced to 21 months in prison by a Spanish court for tax fraud, multiple media outlets have reported.

They apparently will not have to serve the prison sentence, however, according to AP.

Messi, an Argentinian national who plays for the Spanish club FC Barcelona, stood trial with his father over accusations that they defrauded authorities of more than $4.5 million between 2007 and 2009, the Spanish newspaper El Pais has reported.

Messi appealed the decision to go to trial last year but a Barcelona judge rejected it, deciding that Messi had benefited from a scheme allegedly set up by his father to defraud Spanish tax authorities of 4.1 million euros ($4.6 million).

See photos of Messi below:

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Argentina's Lionel Messi (L) is marked by Chile's Arturo Vidal during the Copa America Centenario final in East Rutherford, New Jersey, United States, on June 26, 2016. / AFP / Alfredo ESTRELLA (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - JUNE 26: Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina takes a corner during the Argentina Vs Chile Final match of the Copa America Centenario USA 2016 Tournament at MetLife Stadium on June 26, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - JUNE 26: Lionel Messi of Argentina and Mauricio Isla of Chile collide during the championship match between Argentina and Chile at MetLife Stadium as part of Copa America Centenario US 2016 on June 26, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey, US. (Photo by Rich Schultz/LatinContent/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JUNE 26 Argentina forward and Captain Lionel Messi (10) during the Copa America Centenario Final Argentna vs Chile Soccer, 2016 on June 26, 2016 at Met Life in East Rutherford, NJ, USA . The score was tied at 0 to 0 at the end of regulation play and then added time. Chile won the match 4 to 2 in penalty kicks to win the Copa America Final. Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - JUNE 26: Lionel Messi of Argentina in action during the second half of the championship match between Argentina and Chile at MetLife Stadium as part of Copa America Centenario US 2016 on June 26, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey, US. (Photo by Chris Szagola/LatinContent/Getty Images)
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Whether or not Messi knew he was breaking tax laws, the judge ruled, did not matter.

The question of whether Messi knowingly participated in the alleged fraud, or if it was all his father's idea, was addressed during the trial.

Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, were accused of circumventing tax obligations in Spain by using companies in Belize and Uruguay to sell the rights to Messi's image. Messi's father allegedly set up the scheme when his son was still a minor.

Father and son both denied the allegations, and Messi's lawyers have argued that he "has never spent one minute of his life reading, studying, or analyzing" the contracts involved in the alleged scheme.

Prosecutors retorted that Messi had signed the contracts when he turned 18 and was listed as a sole administrator of one of the fraudulent companies in question.

A judge first ruled against Messi and his father in October 2014, stating that "in this type of crime, it is not necessary for someone to have complete knowledge of all the accounting and business operations nor the exact quantity, rather it is sufficient to be aware of the designs to commit fraud and consent to them."

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