Defiant Cristiano Ronaldo hits back at tax allegations on Instagram
Cristiano Ronaldo on Tuesday sent a defiant message to his critics and those accusing him of tax fraud, one day after defending himself in court.
Prosecutors say the Real Madrid superstar owes €14.7 million in taxes for image rights between 2011-201, but Ronaldo reportedly told judge Monica Gomez Ferrer that he had been unfairly targeted by the prosecutors only because of his high profile.
And he delivered a similar message on Instagram on Tuesday, writing: "What bothers people is my brilliance. Insects are attracted to lights that shine."
Earlier in the day, AS reported that Ronaldo has until Aug. 11 to claim extenuating circumstances in return for a reduced sentence, which would involve him accepting culpability and paying the tax it is claimed he owes plus a fine.
Meanwhlie, the Gestha union of staff at Spain's Hacienda tax authority has said that the the Ballon d'Or holder's alleged tax offences "could be much more serious" than those which saw Lionel Messi found guilty of fraud and given a suspended jail sentence last year.
In July 2016, Barcelona star Messi was found guilty of defrauding €4.1 million in taxes due on image rights income between 2007-2009, fined €3.6m and sentenced to 21 months in prison -- which was suspended -- after he and his father Jorge had previously paid over €10m in back taxes and charges long before their case made it to court.
The figures involved in the case of Ronaldo -- the world's highest-paid athlete, according to Forbes -- are much higher. Hacienda prosecutors say he owes €14.7m, while they also have issues with commercial income for other years including a €75m deal done with Valencia owner Peter Lim which stretches to 2020.
Spanish newspaper El Mundo claims to have seen court documents showing Ronaldo's advisers decided that he only needed to declare €22.7m of a total of €150m in commercial income earned between 2009 and 2020, meaning he paid €5.6m in taxes, less than four percent of the total he received.
Following Ronaldo's appearance in court on Monday, a statement released by the Sindicato de Tecnicos del Ministerio de Hacienda -- known as Gestha -- said that their reading of the case was that the sums involved were "three times" those of the Messi case.
"Without prejudicing the defence that the Portuguese could use to show his innocence, the evidence shows that the alleged fraud by Cristiano could be much more serious than that of Messi, as the alleged evasion is three times the amount," the statement read.
Spanish radio station Cope claims that court documents submitted by the prosecution ask for €75m in total from Ronaldo between back taxes and fines, with a potential jail sentence of 15 years due to the severity of the alleged fraud.
Ronaldo was said to be relaxed as he arrived at the court buildings in Pozuelo in suburban Madrid on Monday morning. But after his 90 minutes in front of judge Gomez Ferrer, a plan for him to read a prepared statement to the media was shelved.
Gestifute instead later released a statement in which the Portugal captain maintained he "had never hidden anything" and told his advisers to always make sure he paid all taxes correctly and in time.
El Mundo, citing leaks from inside the courtroom, said that Ronaldo told the judge that he trusted completely in his agent Jorge Mendes, but that his "friend" was involved in negotiating contracts and transfers, not organising tax affairs.
Earlier this summer, Mendes appeared in front of judge Gomez Ferrer to give evidence in a tax evasion case involving another of his clients, ex-Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao. He then made clear that neither he nor anybody else at his companies is involved in tax planning or gives tax advice.
Mendes' nephew Luis Correia, of Ireland-based company Polaris which manages Gestifute clients' image rights income, is to appear in front of judge Gomez Ferrer on Sept. 20 as part of the Falcao case, according to Gestifute.
The Gestifute statement released on Monday said English lawyers recommended by Manchester United put together Ronaldo's tax structure when he was at Old Trafford in 2004.
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