Cristiano Ronaldo after Madrid court appearance: I've never hidden anything
MADRID -- Cristiano Ronaldo said he "has never hidden anything" and told his advisers to always make sure he paid what he owed correctly and in time, in a statement released after the Real Madrid star spent 90 minutes answering to charges of a €14.7 million tax fraud in a Madrid court on Monday morning.
Prosecutors at Spain's Hacienda tax agency have put together a case arguing that the Real Madrid forward, his advisers and agents at Gestifute routed image rights income through a network of companies to avoid paying the relevant taxes from 2011 to 2014.
Ronaldo, who has previously denied all the charges through his agents, arrived at the buildings of the Court of First Instance and Instruction No. 1 in Pozuelo de Alarcon, Madrid, around 11 a.m. local time and spent an hour-and-a-half in front of Judge Monica Gomez Ferrer.
No members of the media were permitted inside the court, and a plan for the Portugal captain to read a prepared statement afterward was shelved, with a Gestifute statement instead released almost two hours later.
Ronaldo said in the statement: "The Spanish tax service [Hacienda] knows the detail of all my income because we have given it to them. I have never hidden anything, nor did have I ever had the intention of evading taxes.
"I always do my tax declaration in a voluntary manner, as I think that we must all declare and pay taxes according to our income. Those who know me know that this is what I ask from my advisors -- that they keep everything up to date, and correctly paid, as I do not want any problems."
The Gestifute statement went on to say that the accusation by Hacienda prosecutors that a special company was created when Ronaldo joined Real Madrid from Manchester United in 2009 to keep his image rights income away from the Spanish tax authorities was untrue.
"When I signed for Real Madrid, I did not create a special structure to manage my image rights, I just kept the wy they were managed when I was in England," he said. "The lawyers who were recommended to me by Manchester United created it in 2004, long before I thought of coming to live in Spain. The structure was normal in England, accepted by the English tax authority who ratified it as legal."
Hacienda investigators have also looked at the sale of Ronaldo's image rights to Valencia owner Peter Lim in 2015. The statement denied there were any tax problems around this business decision.
"Since 2015 Cristiano Ronaldo has ceded his image rights to a third party, paying independently the taxes due," it said. "He currently pays his taxes in Spain, and is one of the biggest individual contributors in the whole country."
A court source told ESPN FC that Ronaldo had been "relaxed" as he entered the courtroom, but reports immediately afterward said his mood had changed during the 90-minute intervention.
Multiple reports in the Madrid media said Ronaldo had told the judge, "I am only here because I am called Cristiano Ronaldo."
The Gestifute statement did not mention the reported exchange and added that Ronaldo would now be making no further public comment on the issue until the judge reaches her decision.
"Now is the moment to let justice do its work," he said. "I believe in justice and I hope that, also in this case, there is a just decision. And with the goal of avoiding any unnecessary pressures or contributing to any kind of 'parallel justice,' I have decided that I will not make any more comments about this issue until the decision is made."
Based on the evidence heard on Monday, Gomez Ferrer will then decide whether to take the case forward and set a trial date. If found guilty, Ronaldo could be ordered to pay back taxes and a fine -- which could be as high as €50 million -- and experts have said he risks a custodial sentence if he fails to comply.
Gestifute owner Jorge Mendes gave evidence in front of Gomez Ferrer in late June relating to a case involving former Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao, at which Mendes denied he or any of his staff have any role in tax affairs.
The image rights income of other Mendes clients -- including Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and former Madrid players Fabio Coentrao, Pepe, Angel Di Maria and Ricardo Carvalho -- have also been investigated by the Spanish authorities.
Ronaldo, on an extended break following the Confederations Cup earlier in the summer, did not appear for Madrid during their International Champions Cup games in the United States this summer.
Manager Zinedine Zidane has said Ronaldo is expected to join up with the squad on their return to Europe on Saturday, making an appearance at Madrid's game against the MLS All-Stars on Wednesday unlikely.
He is also unlikely to feature in the UEFA Super Cup against Manchester United in Macedonia on Aug. 8, or the Spanish Supercopa games against Barcelona on Aug. 13 and 16.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan