OPINION: Cristiano will be vindicated in tax fraud case

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Cristiano Ronaldo frustrated

Appropriating the words of Michael Hayden: accusations fit on a bumper sticker; the truth takes longer.

In the Cristiano summer saga, I have been unimpressed with the way the Real Madrid hegemonic player has handled himself. His reticence to speak openly and plainly about his plans was underwhelming and I feel he should have defended himself both from the legal insinuations made against him and from the suggestion that he had one foot out of the Real Madrid door. Let us start with that second issue first.

When a paper questions a player’s tenure at any club – inaccurately – that player has a responsibility to speak up immediately. That is true for any club at any level of competition; however, Cristiano Ronaldo wears the #7 for Real Madrid and he still seems to misunderstand what that means. So let us clear this up. Kopa… Amancio… Juanito…. Butragueño… Raúl… and now Cristiano.

Cristiano Ronaldo refused to comment on the speculations suggesting he was on the move.
Cristiano Ronaldo refused to comment on the speculations suggesting he was on the move

When Cristiano put on that #7 shirt, he took an oath to Real Madrid, an oath bequeathed to him by his antecedents. This oath is the only thing bigger than our elite champion in the long and storied history of Real Madrid. He needs to live up to that oath as long as he is here just as everyone else did, in failure and in victory, in the high points and the low points.

So when some paper drops that story (be it true or not) Cristiano should have thought first about his fans. He should have thought first about his Real Madrid family and he should have thought about that number on his back. We are a demanding bunch, us Madridistas. If we get even the slightest indication that any player is slacking off, taking it easy, or going through the motions in any way, they get the message loud and clear when they play in the Bernabéu.

Everyone has faced that music, including Cristiano’s current boss. Yes, Real Madrid fans booed Zidane. They booed Raúl. They booed Casillas. They boo everyone and anyone who is not living up to expectations. That includes activities which happen off the field and so unless the fans see some excitement from our iconic forward, and soon, he’s going to face the music just like everyone else.

He cannot blame anyone but himself. He should have been straight with his fans. Period. Full stop. As the third captain, officially, at Real Madrid – he should now understand just how important he is to his club fans. Make amends. That criticism aside, it is time to focus more on the technical issues at hand in this mess.

The Spanish government branch responsible for tax collection insists that Cristiano Ronaldo built and funded an offshore tax haven in the U.S. Virgin Islands for the sole purpose of defrauding the Spanish government. Kieran Canning of the Independent (U.K.) argues that our man could see jail time.

As ridiculous as this sounds, we have seen a concerted effort by the Spanish government to crack down on tax evasion and fraud. This effort focused largely on football-related individuals and/or celebrities. This is a propaganda move by the Spanish government. It intends to placate a diminishing middle class in Spain, which is growing very tired of seeing the rich get richer in a country, which continues to struggle economically.

Canning, however, makes a strong and valid point. If this case goes to trial, Cristiano could face a jail sentence similar – if not greater than – the sentence handed down to Lionel Messi. The Hacienda folks claim, according to Canning, that Ronaldo evaded €1.4 million in 2011, €1.6 million in 2012, €3.2 million in 2013 and €8.5 million in 2014 for a total of €14.7 million over four years.

I find that hysterical given the amount of Ronaldo’s overall net worth but the real issue isn’t so much the paltry amount of money by Cristiano standards but that he purposefully hid the money “by using a complicated series of offshore companies to receive millions paid from sponsors for his image rights” according to Canning.

Cristiano Ronaldo appears in court
Cristiano Ronaldo vs Judge Gomes Ferrer during his court appearance

Other players facing similar charges have simply paid a fine and walked away but this raises a larger concern for the emblematic Ronaldo. Either he constructed these offshore tax havens in an attempt to hide the money from the Spanish government or someone in his management team did without his knowledge.

The Spanish government does not care, either way, because this is all a dog-and-pony show designed to make the Spanish people feel like their concerns about parity and living in a free and just society matter to anyone in the convoluted Spanish government. As Canning points out, if there was wrongdoing of any kind then “any deal for Ronaldo is likely to contain an astronomical fine.”

They are going to try to make an example of him and it will not work. Despite the political insinuations made publicly by a ranking member or the PSOE (Spain’s predominant political party, a center-left party), I do not feel Cristiano Ronaldo will come out of this mess scathed. According to the PSOE Secretary of Culture, Carmen Calvo, that the initial investigation demonstrates “the parity of everyone before the law, whether your name is (Mariano) Rajoy or (Cristiano) Ronaldo.”

This – as we say in the United States – is hogwash. Her own statement demonstrates this as a political ploy as she lists Mariano Rajoy (the head of the other prominent Spanish political party and the main opposition to everything PSOE, the center-right Partido Popular) as the other supposedly above-the-law suspect.

Her comments are politically motivated since, according to Politico (EU), “Mariano Rajoy will soon become the first sitting prime minister to appear as a witness in a Spanish court when he gives evidence in a massive corruption case involving the alleged illegal financing of his Popular Party (PP).”

Johnny-come-lately politicians are quick to jump on the bandwagon, especially the leader of the far-left party Podemos, Pablo Iglesias. Iglesias received funding from both Cuba and Venezuela for his party but he quickly hailed prosecutors and magistrates for “protecting the dignity” of the country.

This has nothing to do with dignity and if it did, we would not see this parade of big-name athletes stretched out in front of the entire world while plenty of well-to-do folks receive zero public scrutinies. So where does this leave the Ronaldo faithful? Right where we have always been, fighting for the fair and equitable consideration of our player.

However, in the past, we have defended Cristiano as he was unjustly considered lesser than others, not as exceptional or some sort of gimmick or fraud in the football world, now he faces a scrutiny of a greater and more ominous nature. Now they tell us he is a crook, a cheat, a liar and a fraud for ‘hiding’ amounts of money that are inconsequential to him in terms of his vast fortune. He is none of those things.

He is our Number 7 and I am going to celebrate his vindication versus the Spanish court just as much as I celebrated his numerous triumphs in his profession. His actions this summer notwithstanding (and he certainly will get an earful from our fans this fall) I have no doubt in my mind that he will come out of these alleged investigations as he tends to do in his professional life, in front and with a smile on his face.

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