On Tuesday, a Spanish judge ordered Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the highest-scoring players in the history of the game, to appear in court on July 31, according to Yahoo News.
Alongside compatriot Jose Mourinho, Ronaldo joins an elite group of soccer players, including Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano, who have been convicted of tax evasion and fraud, as wealthy sports professionals come under increased financial scrutiny.
Mourinho has been accused of defrauding Spain of some $3.7 million by, according to a Spanish prosecutor, using shell companies in the Virgin Islands and Ireland to "hide profits made from image rights."
As sports leaders are increasingly in demand to promote a wide range of products and services, their payment — and ballooning investments — are typically made through a complicated series of marginally legal offshore financial entities.
Ronaldo was accused last week of four counts of tax fraud totaling some $16.5 million and, as he is now under investigation by a Spanish court, must appear before the bench at Pozuelo de Alarcon on July 31, where a judge will decide whether to charge him with criminal financial wrongdoing.
Statements from the prosecution indicate that Ronaldo will be charged with using offshore financial instruments, including holdings in the British Virgin Islands, to conceal payments made to him for the use of his brand to promote products.
Ronaldo, through his personal branding agent Jorge Mendes — who also represents Mourinho in offering to public and private organizations the for-profit right to use his image in advertisements — has denied any wrongdoing.
In 2016, soccer giant Messi, along with his father, was convicted of three counts of tax fraud equaling some $4.6 million earned from the use of Messi's personal brand.
Messi and his father were both given 21-month jail sentences but neither will go to prison as the misdeed is considered a first offense.