OEIRAS (Portugal): Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (L) and Ricardo Quaresma attend a training session ahead of the Confederations Cup on Tuesday.—Reuters
OEIRAS (Portugal): Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (L) and Ricardo Quaresma attend a training session ahead of the Confederations Cup on Tuesday.—Reuters

MADRID: A Spanish state prosecutor accused Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo of defrauding Spain’s tax office of 14.7 million euros ($16.5 million) in unpaid taxes on Tuesday.

In a statement, Madrid’s regional state prosecutor accused Ronaldo of four accounts of tax fraud from 2011-14.

It said the Portugal forward “took advantage of a business structure created in 2010 to hide from fiscal authorities income generated in Spain from image rights”.

The statement said Ronaldo — the world’s highest paid athlete according to Forbes magazine — 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”.

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

Additionally, the prosecutor accused Ronaldo of declaring 11.5 million euros ($12.8 million) earned from 2011-14 in a tax return filed in 2014, when the prosecutor said Ronaldo’s real income during that period was almost 43 million euros ($48 million). It added that Ronaldo falsely claimed the income as coming from real estate, which “greatly” reduced his tax rate.

Real Madrid declined to comment and calls to the agency representing Ronaldo, Gestifute, went unanswered.

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 six million euros ($6.7 million) in 2014.

A four-time Ballon d’Or winner, the 32-year-old Ronaldo is Europe’s leading footballer. He has led Real to back-to-back Champions League titles and their first La Liga in five seasons, and helped Portugal to win last year’s European Championship.

Ronaldo is the latest in a long line of footballers in Spain — among them Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Neymar — who have been caught up in cases over tax or transfers.

Between 2005 and 2010, foreign players in Spain were protected under the so-called “Beckham law” allowing them to curb their taxes. The issue of tax evasion has caused anger in a country only just emerging from a damaging economic crisis that has seen countless people lose their jobs and inequalities rise.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2017