The former Barcelona forward has refuted charges brought against him last week by the Spanish public prosecutor of conspiring to evade €3.5 million in taxes owed on his income
The 31-year-old former Inter forward and three-time Uefa Champions League winner is accused of four tax offences, each punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to €21m.
The prosecutor presented the case at a Barcelona court on June 15 and asked a judge to open proceedings against the player before the statute of limitations on one of the alleged offences expired on Saturday, according to Reuters.
The prosecutor said Eto’o created two companies, one in Hungary and another in Spain, and used them to channel income obtained from ceding his image rights to the Spanish club and sportswear maker Puma.
The Hungarian company paid one of the lowest corporate tax rates in Europe - 10 to 19 per cent - while the Spanish company paid a reduced corporate rate of 30 to 35%, instead of the 45% income tax rate, according to the charges.
Eto’o also allegedly used the Spanish company to deduct personal expenses, such as payments for his mortgages, furniture and expenses related to his luxury cars.
Eto’o’s former agent, Jose Maria Mesalles, and the manager of the Spanish company, Manuel de Jesus Lastre, were also accused of the same tax offences by the prosecutor.
In reaction to these allegations, Eto’o released a statement on Friday via his website laying the blame at the door of his former agent, Mesalles. The striker had already filed a lawsuit against Mesalles at a Barcelona court last year for embezzlement and betraying his trust.
The following is Eto’o’s full communique, as published on his official site:
In response to the information published today in various media about an investigation of the Special Service of Economic Crimes in Barcelona brought against my person, I feel obliged to clarify the following points:
I) On November 15, 2011, I filed a criminal complaint against Jose Maria Mesalles, who until March 21, 2011 was my representative, lawyer, counsellor, administrator of my heritage and confidant, and who acted with broad powers that I myself had granted in June 2003.
II) My criminal complaint against Jose Maria Mesalles and his accomplices was aimed at the perpetuation of fraudulent acts of appropriation of large sums of money and heritage assets through opaque company operations.
In this context, I was the victim of fraudulent practices that led to the loss of control of the company BULTE EMPRESARIAL SL 2002, which was home to much of my real and personal property.
III) The tax issue which I now find myself facing and of which I am a victim due to the actions of my former representative, also extends over the payment of my image rights as a player.
Jose Maria Mesalles was working all those years as my representative and lawyer in charge of all my legal, economic and tax affairs.