Egyptian footballer sentenced over tax evasion
Mohamed Aboutrika was sentenced in absentia to a year in prison or a fine of around £865 at a court in Cairo.
An Egyptian court has sentenced Mohamed Aboutrika, one of the country’s greatest football players, to a year in prison for tax evasion – or the option to pay a fine of 20,000 Egyptian pounds (£865) to have the sentence suspended.
The verdict, handed down by the Cairo misdemeanour court, was delivered in absentia.
Aboutrika has lived in exile in Qatar since he retired in 2013, where he works as a sports analyst for the beIN sports network.
Under the law, the verdict can be appealed and if Aboutrika returns to Egypt, he would have to stand a new trial.
The court said Aboutrika failed to pay 710,000 Egyptian pounds (£30,500) in taxes on income from advertising deals with soft drinks and telecommunications companies in 2008 and 2009.
Egypt froze Aboutrika’s assets in 2015 and placed him on a no-fly list in 2017 over allegations of links to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities have labelled a terrorist organisation.
The Brotherhood emerged as the country’s dominant political force after Egypt’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising but was later purged in 2013, when the army, led by general-turned-president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, overthrew Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first freely elected but divisive president.
Aboutrika played for Cairo’s Al-Ahly club and was central to two of Egypt’s three straight African Cup of Nations titles in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Those triumphs made Egypt Africa’s most successful team with a record seven titles.
The player was dubbed “Prince of Hearts” and “The Magician” by his soccer fans.
But he also openly sympathised with the Brotherhood and publicly endorsed Mr Morsi in his successful presidential run in 2012, a year after the overthrow of long-standing autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Egyptian pro-government media now refers to Aboutrika as a traitor but he still enjoys huge support from his fans.
Aboutrika has repeatedly denied ever funding the Islamists, who have been the main target of a fierce government crackdown on dissent led by current president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
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