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Cristiano Ronaldo pays $21.7 million to avoid jail time in tax fraud case

MOSCOW — Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has accepted a suspended two-year prison sentence after being accused of tax fraud by Spanish authorities and will pay $21.7 million to ensure his liberty, according to Spanish press reports on Friday.

Just hours before the Portugal star prepared to play Spain in his first match of the World Cup, El Mundo claimed Ronaldo agreed to the suspended sentence in order to settle the case that was launched against him a year ago.

Ronaldo, who plays his club soccer for Real Madrid and is regarded as one of the two best players in the world, was accused of defrauding Spain’s tax authority of $17.7 million in relation to his image rights between 2011 and 2014.
He initially denied tax evasion when the case was first presented and no resolution was found in the meantime. However, accepting a deal means that he would serve no jail time – as he has no prior convictions on his record.

Ronaldo’s issues with the Spanish tax authorities, which have also targeted Lionel Messi and other high-profile athletes in recent times, have led to speculation that he may seek a move away from Real Madrid after the World Cup.

His former club, Manchester United of the English Premier League, and France’s big-spending Paris St. Germain, would be among the favorites to secure his signature, were he to seek a new challenge.

The timing of the report, so close to the pivotal Group B fixture between Spain and Portugal, was intriguing to say the least. Spain’s preparations for the tournament were disrupted when head coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked 48 hours before kickoff.

Ronaldo has never won soccer’s biggest prize and, at 33, may not get another chance. (MSN)

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