Messi appeal against tax evasion sentence rejected by Spanish Supreme Court

Lionel Messi Barcelona Eibar
Although his prison sentence and fine were cut, his conviction for failing to pay €4.1 million in taxes has been upheld by the country's highest court

The Spanish Supreme Court has rejected Lionel Messi's appeal against his conviction for tax evasion.

'Arsenal have big job to keep Alexis'

The Argentine was sentenced to 21 months in jail last year for failing to pay €4.1 million in taxes on image rights in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and was also given a €2m fine. His father, Jorge Messi, was handed the same prison sentence and a smaller fine of close to €1.7m.

Although Messi is unlikely to serve time behind bars because he has no prior convictions, he appealed what his lawyers called a "symbolic" conviction, taking the case to a higher court.

The appeal has been knocked back, while his fine now stands at €1.3m and Jorge's has been cut to €1.3m, while his sentence has been reduced from 21 months to 15 due to his co-operation in the case.

Jorge made a voluntary corrective €5m payment in August 2013 on behalf of the Messis, a figure that was equal to the amount of tax allegedly unpaid, plus interest.

The tribunal ruled that the 29-year-old knew his obligations and knowingly defrauded the government, stating that "avoidable ignorance" does not exclude him from responsibility.

"It is not fitting to assume that the person with a large income can ignore the duty to pay for it," the ruling read. 

"Whoever does not pay anything at all to the Treasury despite the high perception of concrete income (the image rights), knows that he is defrauding."

The original Barcelona court which handed down the initial verdict will now see the case return to it.

During the trial in 2016, Messi consistently denied any involvement, insisting his focus was only ever on playing football.