ARGENTINA and Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for tax fraud, reports the BBC.
His father, Jorge Messi, was also given a jail term for defrauding Spain of US$4.5 million between 2007 and 2009.
They also face millions of euros in fines for using tax havens in Belize and Uruguay to conceal earnings from image rights.
However, neither man is expected to serve time in jail.
Under the Spanish system, prison terms of under two years can be served under probation.
The footballer and his father were found guilty of three counts of tax fraud in yesterday’s ruling by the court in Barcelona.
As well as the jail terms, Messi was fined about 2 million euros and his father 1.5 million euros. They made a voluntary 5 million euro “corrective payment”, equal to the alleged unpaid tax plus interest, in August 2013.
The sentence can be appealed against via the Spanish supreme court.
In Lusaka, Patriotic Front information committee member Sunday Chanda said it was ‘‘getting increasingly clear’’ that the wages of not paying tax in Western countries was jail.
He was commenting on the jailing of United States actor Wesley Snipes and Messi over tax fraud.
Mr Chanda said as a developing country that respects the law above personalities, the Zambia Revenue Authority was day by day being exonerated of ulterior motives over the closure of The Post Newspaper as tax defaulters abroad were equally brought to book.
“This is what UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema and his cohorts do not understand. The excitement by some opposition figures in Zambia confirms that sheer opportunism has invaded Zambian politics. This is yet another eye-opener for the diplomatic community to look at the seriousness of tax fraud as opposed to masking it with press freedom,” he said.
Mr Chanda said no one was above the law and all countries, including Zambia, must take issues of tax fraud such as the one involving The Post Newspaper seriously.