MADRID : Former Spanish tennis star Arantxa Sanchez Vicario has been given a suspended jail term for fraud, a court in Barcelona said on Wednesday.
Sanchez Vicario, 52, and her former husband Josep Santacana and three other people were convicted by the criminal court of hiding assets to avoid paying a 7.6 million-euro ($8.27 million) debt to Banque de Luxembourg, including interest.
Sanchez Vicario will not serve any time in jail provided she does not commit any other crime within two years.
The two, who divorced in 2019, had denied the charges. Santacana was sentenced to three years and three months in jail, the court said in its statement.
Sanchez Vicario had blamed Santacana, arguing he had been handling her money and she was not aware of any illegal tampering with her family assets.
They were ordered to pay 6.6 million euros in compensation to Banque de Luxembourg and to pay unspecified fines.
Sanchez had told the court in September she had already paid around 1.9 million euros to the bank and had committed to using half of her income for the remainder of what she owes.
Even though she did not have the financial knowledge to carry out the operations, “obviously she had full knowledge of what was done with her assets and was benefiting from them, with the full awareness of the debt she had with Banque de Luxembourg”, the court said in sentencing her.
Sanchez Vicario was the first Spanish player to reach the top of women’s tennis rankings. She won the French Open three times and the U.S. Open as a singles player before retiring in 2002.
The case stems from her being ordered in 2009 by the Supreme Court to pay a 5.2 million euro fine for tax fraud over the 1989-2003 period, when she was resident in Spain rather than in Andorra, as she had said.
After the couple transferred their assets from Banque de Luxembourg, the Spanish state eventually collected the money from the bank through a guarantee agreement.
The bank accused the couple of never honouring their debt and concealing their assets. In a civil suit in 2014, a Spanish court ruled in favour of the bank but the money was never paid, and the bank resorted to the criminal courts.
($1 = 0.9195 euros)