Samuel Eto'o pleads guilty to tax fraud to avoid prison in Spain
Eto'o receives a fine and a 22-month suspended sentence but will not serve any time, as is customary in Spain for prison terms of under two years for non-violent crimes.
Former Cameroon football star Samuel Eto'o has struck a deal with Spanish prosecutors to avoid going to jail for tax fraud he committed while playing for Barcelona, a court in the city announced Monday.
Eto'o, who played for Barcelona from 2004 to 2009, received a fine and a 22-month suspended sentence, but will not serve any time, as is customary in Spain for prison terms of under two years for non-violent crimes.
Reports in Spain claim Eto'o, 41, will pay a fine of 1.8 million euros ($1.9 million).
The record four-time African footballer of the year and Jose Maria Mesalles -- his former representative, who for his part was sentenced to 12 months and a fine -- must refund Spanish tax authorities for the amount defrauded, around 3.9 million euros.
On Monday, Eto'o told the court in Barcelona that "I admit the facts and I am going to pay what I'm due, but let it be known that I was a just a child then and that I always did what my former agent Jose Maria Mesalles, who I considered like a father, asked me to do at that time."
Prosecutors accused Eto'o of failing to declare income from the transfer of image rights between 2006 and 2009.
According to the prosecutors, Eto'o transferred his image rights to a company based in Hungary which declared his earnings in that country, where the tax rate is one of the "lowest in Europe," while a second Spanish company declared them in Spain at the corporate tax rate, less than the income tax that should have been paid.
Eto'o was the "real holder of the image rights," maintained the prosecution, according to whom the transfer was fraudulent and only designed to pay less tax.
The former Barcelona star, who last year was elected head of the Cameroonian football federation, is one of a number of football stars to have a run-in with Spanish tax authorities, following the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar.