Explained: Ronaldo's tax case and what it means for the Real Madrid forward

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The Portuguese attacker has been accused of avoiding payments on €150 million of his earnings in a new investigation after revelations by Football Leaks last week

"The best year of my life." That is how Cristiano Ronaldo recently described 2016 after winning the Champions League with Real Madrid, claiming the Euro 2016 title with Portugal and signing a new contract at the Santiago Bernabeu. All of a sudden, however, the news is not so good.

Ronaldo's lawyers deny tax claims

Ronaldo remains favourite to secure the Ballon d'Or later this month, yet he is also in the headlines for the wrong reasons after Football Leaks claimed he has avoided declaring on around €150 million of his earnings during his time in Spain.

Here is a look at the case in more detail and what the implications could be for the Real Madrid forward...


WHAT IS CRISTIANO RONALDO ACCUSED OF?


Cristiano Ronaldo is accused of failing to pay tax on €150 million of his earnings accrued for image rights between the years of 2009 and 2020.

Documents leaked to an international consortium of journalists claim that Cristiano channelled money overseas in order to avoid paying taxes, with two terabytes of data said to include official documents and contracts confirming the transactions.

Ronaldo is represented by Jorge Mendes and his company, Gestifute, issued a statement this week saying the Portuguese forward - along with compatriot Jose Mourinho, also accused in the new claims - is up to date with his tax payments in Spain.

"Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho are fully compliant with their tax obligations with the Spanish and British tax authorities," it said.


HOW IS RONALDO ALLEGED TO HAVE AVOIDED TAX PAYMENTS?


Ronaldo is alleged to have stored large sums of money in tax havens in order to avoid payments on those monies.

It is claimed that the Portuguese moved up to €150 million to offshore locations, including the British Virgin Islands, in large payments to evade his fiscal responsibilities.

'Exemplary' Ronaldo must be respected, Real Madrid say

Der Spiegel claims phantom businesses set up in the Caribbean archipelago hide around $50,000m in total, with Ronaldo's funds said to be stored in a small law firm above a pharmacy which is pictured in the German newspaper.

The three-time Ballon d'Or winner is alleged to have used a "system" devised by his agent Jorge Mendes involving a series of offshore accounts and offshore companies in Ireland, the British Virgin Islands, Panama and Switzerland.


HOW ARE REAL MADRID INVOLVED?


Up until now, the club with greater problems in allegations of tax evasion has been Barcelona, with Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano both found guilty of fiscal fraud and handed suspended sentences in Spain, while the Catalan club have also faced a long legal battle and corruption charges in the signing of Neymar.

However, these new leaks accuse Ronaldo as well as ex-Madrid coach Mourinho during his time at the Santiago Bernabeu, along with current and former Blancos' players Pepe, Luka Modric, Fabio Coentrao, Ricardo Carvalho, Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria.

Could Ronaldo go to prison for tax evasion?

Meanwhile, the construction company owned by Florentino Perez, ACS, is reported by Infolibre to have created a total of 141 offshore firms, including 71 set up in 2013 alone.

In a statement issued by the Spanish side on Tuesday, the club called for "maximum respect" for Ronaldo, claiming the Portuguese forward is "exemplary" when it comes to his tax payments.

"Following the information published in the last few days and having seen the certificate published by the Tax Agency, through which it is confirmed that our player, Cristiano Ronaldo, is aware of all his tax obligations, Real Madrid demands the maximum respect for a player such as Cristiano Ronaldo, whose conduct has been absolutely exemplary during the whole of his career at our club," it read.


IS THE RONALDO TAX CASE MORE SERIOUS THAN MESSI'S?


Messi was accused of evading the payment of income tax in 2007, 2008 and 2009, having entrusted his father to deal with his administrative matters in the early part of his career.

Following a protracted case in Spain, the Argentine attacker was handed a 21-month sentence earlier in 2016, although he will not serve any time in prison because it is a first offence and any terms of under two years are suspended.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner was found guilty of defrauding around €4.1 million from the Spanish authorities, with most of that revenue understood to come from image rights.

Messi's name was one of the ones included in the Panama Papers, with the 29-year-old said to have used a law firm in the Central American nation to store funds offshore and therefore avoid paying taxes on that income.

That is similar to the accusations aimed at Ronaldo, although the Portuguese is alleged to have diverted much more money than his Barcelona rival.


IS RONALDO GOING TO JAIL?


Ronaldo has been accused of using a phantom offshore company to avoid paying taxes on his image rights, but at this stage there is no criminal investigation in place against the Portuguese forward.

However, the tax authorities in Spain will be looking closely at the revelations by Football Leaks, published by El Mundo and a number of other newspapers across Europe.

If found guilty, the Portuguese forward is likely to face a hefty fine (as Messi did) to pay back all of the monies he owes and more, plus the possibility of a prison sentence as well.

Ramos distances himself from tax scandal

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Jose Maria Mollinedo, secretary general of the workers' union for Spain's tax authorities, Gestha, claims Cristiano could be facing half a dozen years behind bars.

"We would be advising aggravated tax fraud," he told RAC1. "This means a minimum prison sentence of two years for each defrauded year. If the investigation is looking at the last three years, that would mean at least six years of imprisonment."

However, such punishment would seem highly improbable, with the Portuguese more likely to be handed a suspended sentence like Messi if, indeed, the case even reaches court.

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