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Cristiano Ronaldo accused of $16.5m tax fraud in Spain

Lawsuit filed against Portugal and Real Madrid footballer who is accused of $16.5m tax fraud.

Spain's prosecutor's office in Madrid has filed a lawsuit against footballer Cristiano Ronaldo for allegedly defrauding Spanish authorities of €14.7m ($16.5m) in unpaid taxes between 2011 and 2014.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the prosecutor's office said Ronaldo had knowingly used a "business structure" created in 2010 to hide his income in Spain from his image rights.

The lawsuit is based on a report sent to the prosecutor's office from Spain's tax agency AEAT, it said, adding that the Portugal forward used what it deems a shell company in the Virgin Islands to "create a screen in order to hide his total income from Spain's Tax Office". 

Ronaldo is the world's highest paid athlete, according to Forbes magazine.

The prosecutor also said that Ronaldo "intentionally" did not declare income of €28.4m ($31.8m) made from the cession of image rights from 2015-20 to another company located in Spain.

Additionally, the prosecutor accused Ronaldo of declaring €11.5m ($12.8m) earned from 2011-14 in a tax return filed in 2014, when the prosecutor said Ronaldo's real income during that period was almost €43m ($48m).

It added that Ronaldo falsely claimed the income as coming from real estate, which "greatly" reduced his tax rate.

Ronaldo's agency had previously said he was up to date on his taxes.

Last month, tax officials said Ronaldo adjusted his tax declarations and paid an extra €6m ($6.7m) in 2014.

A four-time Ballon d'Or winner, the 32-year-old Ronaldo has led Real Madrid to back-to-back Champions League titles and its first Spanish league in five seasons, and helped Portugal to win last year's European Championship.

Ronaldo is the latest high-profile footballer to run afoul of Spain's tax man.

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi was convicted of tax fraud for unpaid income from image rights last year, but he is not expected to serve prison time since it was his first offence.

Barcelona's Argentine defender Javier Mascherano also agreed a one-year suspended sentence with authorities for tax fraud last year.


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