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Barcelona's Lionel Messi offers to pay extra fine to avoid jail sentence

Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi has offered to pay an additional fine of 500,000 euros (£439,000) to ensure he avoids a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud that a judge is expected to suspend, a Spanish state prosecutor said.

The fine-for-time deal was presented by Messi's lawyers to the judge who will rule on whether to suspend his sentence - as is widely expected - state prosecutor Isabel Lopez Riera said.

Ms Lopez Riera said she has told the judge that her office is not opposed to the deal.

Messi's lawyers have made a similar offer for the Argentina player's father, Jorge Horacio Messi, Ms Lopez Riera said.

He is offering to pay 360,000 euros (£316,000) to avoid his 15-month sentence for helping his son cheat on his taxes.

In Spain, prison sentences under 24 months for first-time offenders can be suspended by a judge.

The government lawyer representing Spain's Tax Office in the case will also be able to weigh in on the proposed deal.

As state prosecutor, Ms Lopez Riera is impartial in the case as a defender of the public interest.

Last year, a court in Barcelona found Messi and his father each guilty of three counts of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros (£3.6 million) from 2007-09.

The unpaid taxes were from money made through endorsement deals, not Messi's salary paid by Barcelona.

Messi was fined two million euros (£1.75 million) and his father 1.5 million euros (£1.3 million).

Both were originally sentenced to 21 months, but his father's sentence was later reduced to 15 months.

In the last two weeks, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, formerly of Real Madrid, have been accused by a Madrid-based state prosecutor of having defrauded Spain's Tax Office of millions of euros in unpaid taxes.

Both have denied wrongdoing.

AP

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