Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t pass up the chance to remind the law who he is.
The soccer superstar appeared in a Spanish court Monday to formally respond to allegations of tax evasion for the first time. At one point in the 90-minute hearing, Ronaldo repeated his previous assertion that he “never tried to avoid” paying €14.8 million (£13.2 million/$17.4 million) in taxes on his image-rights earnings, according to the Associated Press.
At another point, he delivered this one-liner to judge Monica Gomez, according to ESPN’s Dermot Corrigan.
Ronaldo joins Lionel Messi and other leading soccer players whom Spain’s tax authorities have investigated for evasion.
Prosecutors accuse Ronaldo in June of knowingly using an overseas “business structure” (or shell company) to hide income from his image rights from Spanish tax agencies between 2011 and 2014. Ronaldo reportedly was so upset about the charges he considered leaving Real Madrid earlier this summer.
The case remains in the investigatory phase, and the testimony Ronaldo gave will help Gomez determine whether to proceed to a trial. If found guilty, Ronaldo would face a heavy fine and could even serve a prison sentence of around three-and-a-half years, according to The BBC.
Swarms of journalists and fans waited outside Pozuelo de Alarcon Court No. 1 in suburban Madrid to see and hear from Ronaldo after his closed-door hearing. But he entered the court through a side door to avoid the crowd and left without speaking to reporters.
Here’s what his representatives said following the hearing.
We’ll soon learn whether Ronaldo’s testimony and assertion about authorities’ motives will convince Gomez to dismiss the charges against him.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
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