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Javier Mascherano expected to avoid prison sentence for tax fraud

Image: Javier Mascherano admitted the fraud offences, which date back to 2011 and 2012

Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano is likely to avoid a prison sentence for a €1.5m (£1.1m) tax fraud.

The Argentina international - who has also played for West Ham and Liverpool - admitted the offences, which date back to 2011 and 2012, and accepted a one-year custodial sentence as part of a plea bargain.

But he is not expected to be imprisoned after his legal representatives requested the sentence be suspended and replaced with a fine.

Mascherano pleaded guilty last year to defrauding the Spanish tax authorities of more than €1.5m by concealing earnings from his image rights by using companies set up in the United States and Portugal.

During a brief appearance in court on Thursday, he agreed to pay an €800,000 fine and cover the legal costs and it was confirmed Mascherano also paid back the unpaid tax plus almost €200,000 in interest.

An official statement from Mascherano read: "I want to clarify some issues related to recent news about myself.

"As of today, I have reached an agreement with the Spanish tax authorities. As such, with the legal side resolved and with the confidence of having sorted my financial situation, I want to issue a short explanation.

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"After agreeing to come to Barcelona, I hired a prestigious Spanish tax firm, with renowned professionals and an excellent reputation. In agreement with my situation, they recommended certain structures to me, all within the legal framework, always notifying me that the procedures were common, transparent and in accordance with the law.

"I was advised by said professionals from the year 2010 until 2014, when I decided to change firms before the process was opened against me and with evidence that my problem was no longer a possibility but a reality.

"My new advisors recommended I pay the taxes demanded by the Treasury, presenting what they called 'corrections'.

"Now, finally and following a bitter delay, we have reached this agreement, which restores to me the peace of mind of having fulfilled my obligations."

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