Ex-Barcelona striker Eto'o handed suspended prison sentence over tax fraud

Samuel Eto'oGetty

Former Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o has escaped a jail term for fraud after he was handed a 22-month suspended prison sentence.

The ex-Cameroon international pleaded guilty to tax offences at Barcelona Criminal Court, to the tune of just shy of €3.9 million (£3.3m/$4.1m) in relation to a failure to declare income from his image rights between 2006 and 2009.

Eto'o has been ordered to pay a sum of four fines in response, around the sum of €1.8m (£1.6m/$1.9m), but has avoided an immediate jail term in part due to his prior clean record and because he has already returned some of the defrauded money.

What has Eto'o said about his conviction?

The former attacker - a quadruple Champions League winner with three clubs, who enjoyed prolific spells in Spain, Italy, England and Turkey - accepted the charges while stating that he had been misled by his former advisor Jose Maria Mesalles, against whom he has launched a separate lawsuit.

Eto'o alleges that the mismanagement of his finances - which saw the player's image rights between sportswear giant Puma and Barcelona go undeclared through the use of two external companies in Hungary and Spain - came at the latter's instigation, to whom the player previously described as a "father figure".

"I recognise the facts and I am going to pay, but let it be known that I was a child then and that I always did what my father asked me to do," the 41-year-old read in a statement in court, per Sport.

Has anyone else been charged?

Eto'o is not the only individual to be indicted and plead guilty, with Mesalles also handed a suspended sentence of a year for his part in committing the fraud.

A third individual - Jesus Lastre, the administrator of the Hungarian-based company - was meanwhile acquitted on all charges.

It remains to be seen whether Eto'o will be forced to stand down from the office of President of the Cameroonian Football Federation following his conviction.

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