Former Barcelona player and the president of the Cameroonian Football Federation, Samuel Eto’o, has admitted to defrauding the Spanish tax authorities and has received a suspended prison sentence for tax evasion, along with his former agent Jose Maria Mesalles.
He appeared with his former agent Jose Maria Mesalles in the Ciudad de la Justicia court in Barcelona, where he was given twenty-two months suspended sentence and a fine.
The case stems from Eto’o’s stay at the Camp Nou between 2006 and 2009 when an estimated €3.8 million in taxes was not paid. Prosecutors alleged that between those years, the player had failed to register income from the sale of image rights. Eto’o transferred his image rights to a firm situated in Hungary, which claimed his revenues in Hungary. Hungary is one of the European countries with the lowest tax rates.
He had made an incorrect declaration of his salaries in Barcelona during that period as well as additional revenue from a Puma sponsorship, as he moved his funds from accounts in Spain and Hungary.
Eto’o had accepted the charge but claimed that he was just a young player at that time and most of the blame should be accorded to Mesalles, his agent.
“I admit the facts and I am going to pay what I’m due, but let it be known that I was a just a child then and that I always did what my former agent Jose Maria Mesalles, who I considered as a father, asked me to do at that time,” Eto’o told the court.
The court lowered Eto’o’s initial sentence from four years to twenty-two months and his agent, Mesalles from six years to one year sentence. He has also been made to pay four fines totaling €1.8 million, while his manager would be paying €905,000.
The 41-year-old, who is currently the president of the Cameroonian football federation, is the most recent international player or manager to be charged with tax fraud in Spain in recent years, joining the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Jose Mourinho, and Neymar.
He joined Barcelona at the age of 23 and has also played for Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Chelsea, and Everton before retiring in 2019.