Samuel Eto to face a 22-month prison sentence for tax fraud while in Barcelona between 2006 and 2009

Samuel Eto has acknowledged a suspended 22-month prison sentence and a fine of slightly more than €1.8 million for tax evasion but insists he was duped by his former agent.

Samuel Eto'o to face 22-month prison sentence for tax fraud while in Barcelona between 2006 and 2009
Samuel Eto leaving court after a ruling against him in Italy.

The former Inter Milan and Cameroon striker was sentenced on Monday after a trial for defrauding the Spanish authorities of his image rights income while playing for Barcelona between 2006 and 2009.

Eto’o, 41, failed to provide accurate declarations for a sum totaling 3,872,621 euros (£3,330,514).

Between 2006 and 2009, the Cameroonian was found to have failed to declare income from the transfer of his image rights to sponsor Puma and Barcelona, his club at the time, in his personal income tax returns.

A Spanish court decided that he had broken the law by illegally taxing his image rights through two separate companies in order to reduce the amount of money he was required to pay.

Samuel Eto’o agreed to pay the fine but claimed that his ex-agent, Jose Maria Mesalles, misled him, saying: “My father was the one who looked after me as a child. I’ll pay, but I’ve always done what my (agent) told me to do.”

Mesalles was given a one-year prison sentence in addition to having to pay a fine that is slightly more than 900,000 euros (about $1 million).

However, because neither Eto’o nor Mesalles have a criminal record and their sentences were less than two years, their incarceration has been suspended.

During the first 12 years of his professional career, Eto’o played for several teams in Spain, including Leganes, Real Madrid, Espanyol, Mallorca, and Barcelona.

Samuel Eto'o to face 22-month prison sentence for tax fraud while in Barcelona between 2006 and 2009

After signing with Barcelona in 2004, he went on to score 130 goals for the Catalan side in 199 matches over the course of his career there, most notably assisting them in winning two Champions League titles.

Marca quotes Eto’o outside of court as saying, “I recognize the facts and I am going to pay, but for the record, I was a child then and I always did what I was told to do.”

Earnings that should have been reported for income tax purposes were instead hidden in the books of two companies in Spain and Hungary. Earnings diverted to Hungary were tax-free, while earnings diverted across Spain were taxed at a lower rate than the personal income tax rate.

Jesus Lastre, the third defendant, was found not guilty. Lastre was the administrator of the Hungarian company that was used to divert earnings.