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Barcelona's Mascherano gets off easy from tax fraud charges

Javier Mascherano has avoided jail time after admitting to tax fraud in October. Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi stands trial for similar charges at the end of May.

Barcelona's Javier Mascherano has accepted a one-year suspended jail sentence and a 816,000 euro ($891,000) fine before a judge on Thursday for tax evasion.

The plea agreement was formally processed in a hearing that lasted barely 10 minutes. Mascherano admitted to the two counts of tax fraud against him in October and deposited nearly 1.75 million euros with the tax authorities in September to repay the amount owed, plus interest. Sentences less than two years are normally suspended in Spain unless the guilty party has previous convictions, and Mascherano may be able to avoid a jail sentence altogether.

"I'm very relieved to know I am back in line," Mascherano said in a statement on his Twitter account. "I am a professional sportsman, I don't have great knowledge of tax and legal matters. Therefore, I have to rely on people that manage these technical issues. During my whole career I have been an honest and responsable person, respectful to my teammates and the clubs I have represented and the countries I have lived in."

Lionel Messi, Mascherano's teammate at Barcelona and on the Argentina national team, also

faces tax evasion charges.

However, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner has not admitted to the 4.16 million euros in taxes related to his image rights between 2007 and 2009 he and his father were charged with. Messi is due to stand trial for tax fraud on May 31.

dv/apc (AFP, Reuters)

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