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Cristiano Ronaldo appears in court on tax charges

Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo has appeared at a Spanish court where he was facing allegations he evaded millions in tax.

Ronaldo could potentially be jailed for three-and-a-half years if found guilty, experts say

Prosecutors accuse Ronaldo, reported to be the world’s highest paid athlete, of evading €14.7m ($17.3m; £13.1m) in tax.

He had been expected to make a statement after the pre-trial hearing, but left without saying a word.

The Real Madrid star, 32, has previously denied the allegations, saying his “conscience is clear”.

Ronaldo is the latest in a string of footballers to be pursued by the Spanish tax authorities.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi, who plays for Barcelona, was handed a 21-month prison sentence after being found guilty of the same charge last year.

Earlier this month, the court ruled he could pay €252,000 in place of jail time.

However, Messi was only accused of evading €4.1m in tax, €10.6m less than Ronaldo.

Ronaldo spent an hour-and-a-half giving evidence to judges at a court in the Madrid suburb of Pozuelo de Alarcón on Monday, dodging the media camped outside by arriving and leaving via an underground garage.

At the scene: Richard Conway, BBC Sports News correspondent

The stage was set for Ronaldo, in more ways than one.

Around 40 TV crews and over 100 journalists had gathered at the small court in the Madrid suburb of Pozeulo.

But Ronaldo dodged them on arrival – choosing to enter the court by a side door.

By then, a lectern and a sound system arrived. Ronaldo would, we were told, speak to the world’s media once he had finished giving his testimony.

With the crowd of journalists poised to hear from the world’s best paid player there was then disappointment. Ronaldo had gone home having decided against saying anything.

His case continues. So too will the huge interest in it and him.

According to prosecutors, Ronaldo allegedly took “advantage of a company structure created in 2010 to hide income generated in Spain from his image rights from tax authorities”, which was a “voluntary and conscious breach of his fiscal obligations in Spain”.

Ronaldo’s management has also denied the allegations.

But if the case is sent to trial and he is found guilty, the Portuguese forward could face a fine of “at least €28m” and a prison sentence of three-and-a-half years, the Gestha union of experts at Spain’s Inland Revenue says. BBC News