Messi lawyers to appeal 21-month prison term

Madrid: Lawyers representing FC Barcelona's Argentine football star Lionel Messi and his father Jorge will appeal against the 21-month jail sentences (consisting of three seven month terms) handed to the pair for tax fraud by a court here. Lionel was also sentenced to pay a fine of 2.1 million euros (around $2.4 million) while his father was fined 1.6 million euros for using companies outside of Spain to avoid paying 4.16 million euros earned from the players image rights between 2007-2009, reports Xinhua. The footballer had alleged in his defence that his father managed his financial affairs and that he had merely signed the papers. This argument had originally been accepted by the Spanish Treasury, but the State Prosecutor had insisted on the player's guilt. Neither of the Messis is likely to serve actual time in prison for the offence, but in a statement, their lawyers insisted that although the sentence of seven months for each year's supposed tax avoidance was "symbolic", it was "not correct". "The most recent laws from the supreme court on the matter that concerns us would seem to prove the argument of the defence," Messi's lawyers Enrique Bacigalupo and Javier Sanchez-Vera explained in a communique. FC Barcelona have expressed their support to their star player, publishing a message on the official club website saying Leo has "no kind of penal responsibility in relation with the events of this procedure". Meanwhile the player's future was further complicated on Thursday by stories published in the English and Spanish press of a meeting between Jorge Messi and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich on Abramovich' s yacht. Should this prove to be true it would only serve to raise suspicions among many Barca supporters that the fraud case is part of a conspiracy to damage Messi' s image and force him to leave his current club.