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Cristiano Ronaldo accused of tax fraud by Spanish state prosecutor

BARCELONA, Spain — A Spanish state prosecutor accused Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo of defrauding Spain’s tax office of $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 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 $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 $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 $48 million. It added that Ronaldo falsely claimed the income as coming from real estate, which “greatly” reduced his tax rate.

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 $6.7 million in 2014.

A four-time Ballon d’Or winner, the 32-year-old Ronaldo is Europe’s leading soccer player. The former Manchester United player has led Madrid to back-to-back Champions League titles and its first Spanish league in five seasons, and helped Portugal to win last year’s European Championship.

Ronaldo is the latest high-profile soccer player to run afoul of Spain’s tax man.

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi was convicted of tax fraud for unpaid income from image rights last year, but he is not expected to serve prison time since it was his first offense.

On Tuesday, the state prosecutor cited the verdict against Messi as precedent for the case against Ronaldo.

AP television producer Iain Sullivan contributed to this report from Madrid.

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