Cristiano Ronaldo faces charges for tax evasion to the tune of €14.7 million, the public prosecutor's office in Madrid confirmed on Tuesday.
The Portuguese forward was originally accused of failure to pay those funds in information revealed by Football Leaks and, after a period of silence, the Real Madrid attacker can now expect a lengthy court case similar to the one experienced by Barcelona rival Lionel Messi.
In their official statement, the prosecution listed the alleged misdemeanours committed by the 32-year-old, including failure to pay close to €15m in tax, the creation of a company in order to evade taxes and other violations with respect to declaring his image rights. The complaint is three times greater in value than Messi's, for which the Argentine was found guilty, forced to pay a €4.1m fine and handed a sentence of 21 months in prison.
In Messi's case, which began in 2013 but was finalised just a few weeks ago by Spain's Supreme Court, the Argentine received a suspended sentence. That is because, under Spanish law, first-time offenders do not have to spend time in prison if the term is for two years or less.
Cristiano's case would be the same. With no previous record of tax evasion or other offences, Ronaldo would not spend time in jail - even if he is found guilty of the charges.
Sources consulted confirm that the Portuguese would only be forced to serve time if the sentence were to be greater than 24 months and, although this case is in theory more serious than Messi's, the same jurisprudence would likely be followed and applied.
The case is still in its initial phase and will likely last some time, as Messi's did. Following the complaint by the public prosecution office in Madrid, it is the magistrate's court that will take over and if Ronaldo were to be found guilty in a hypothetical trial for fiscal fraud, the Portuguese would be likely to receive a sentence similar to his Barca rival.
The possibility of the four-time Ballon d'Or winner - whose entourage insist he is innocent - ending up behind bars remains remote, but the accusations are extremely serious for Ronaldo and a long legal process lies ahead.