Recent Spanish media reports claiming Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo has been negotiating a deal to avoid prison due to his tax arrears are "just noise and smoke" rising now as the judge may be about to move the case forward to trial, a source at the Spanish tax authority has told ESPN FC.
Various Madrid-based publications have claimed to have inside information on the case in which prosecutors at Spain's tax agency maintain that several companies in Ireland and the British Virgin Islands were used by Ronaldo, the Real Madrid forward, and his advisors to avoid paying at least €14.7 million in taxes due on image rights income.
El Mundo reported that Ronaldo's camp offered a "blank cheque" to the tax authorities in exchange for dropping criminal charges and the withdrawal of a potential custodial prison sentence, and AS reported that tax authorities had rejected a settlement offer of €3.8m from Ronaldo's advisors, as officials are demanding a total of €25.7m in back-taxes and fines.
Europa Press reported they had been informed by the tax authority, AEAT, that Ronaldo's case was still being treated as "criminal" despite efforts by the Portugal captain's legal team to have it instead viewed as a misdemeanour.
Sources told ESPN FC that AEAT are not close to making any deals in Ronaldo's case and that the flurry of media reports may be a late effort to influence judge Monica Gomez Ferrer as she decides whether to take the case forward to trial or dismiss the charges.
Last July, Ronaldo strongly rejected any wrongdoing during a 90-minute hearing in front of Gomez Ferrer, with the player repeating in court claims that he feels victimised by the Spanish authorities.
His advisors, Gestifute, who did not immediately respond to a request from ESPN FC for comment on the speculation, also strongly refute any wrongdoing with the management of their client's financial affairs.
Should the case go forward to trial, and should Ronaldo continue to protest his innocence and refuse to settle with authorities, he could be found guilty and face a custodial prison sentence of two to six years.
Following July's hearing, Ronaldo hired defence lawyer Jose Antonio Choclan, a veteran of high-profile legal cases involving Spanish public figures.
Ronaldo currently earns an estimated $93 million a year, according to Forbes, with approximately half coming from image rights deals with his many sponsors.