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President of Cameroon Soccer Group Owes Spain $1 Million in Tax

Posted on Dec. 30, 2021

Samuel Eto’o, president of the Cameroonian Football Federation and a one-time member of Spain’s top professional soccer division, has been added to the Spanish Tax Agency’s list of taxpayers who owe over €600,000. 

The Tax Agency's "list of debtors" says Eto’o, who is also a four-time African player of the year, owes €981,598 in personal income tax on his earnings from sponsorships and licensing rights. Before his retirement in 2019, Eto’o played for several Spanish clubs, including Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

Eto’o played for Barcelona from 2004 to 2009, and according to a 2016 article in The Guardian, Spanish prosecutors at that time were seeking a 10-year prison sentence and a €14.3 million fine against Eto’o, accusing him of four counts of tax fraud, amounting to about €3.9 million, between 2006 and 2009. It is unclear if or how that case was resolved, but Eto’o denied any wrongdoing, and taking similar cases into account, he likely has served little or no time in prison in connection with those charges.

Eto'o is one of several current and former Barcelona players accused of avoiding taxes in Spain. Brazilian soccer star Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior topped the list last year, allegedly owing Spain €34.6 million from his time with Barcelona between 2013 and 2017. In 2016 a Brazilian court seized Neymar’s Brazilian assets, worth a reported $47.3 million, because he did not appropriately declare earnings from his soccer contracts or an advertising deal with Nike.

Lionel Messi, the Argentine forward who played for FC Barcelona, received a 21-month prison sentence in 2016 and the Spanish Supreme Court also upheld a €2.1 million fine assessed against him for underreporting €4.1 million in income from the licensing of his image. Messi's prison sentence was later converted to a fine of €252,000 — €400 for each day of the sentence.

Several other players for Spanish teams have been involved in high-profile tax cases. Soccer legend Cristiano Ronaldo received two years of probation for evading €14.7 million in taxes related to the sale of his image rights between 2011 and 2014.

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