Baker McKenzie has been dropped from the defence team of Cristiano Ronaldo, who is accused of defrauding €14.7m (£13.1m) from Spanish authorities.
It is understood that Ronaldo has replaced the US firm with Madrid-based firm Choclan Montalvo. The Spanish firm advises a number of prominent footballing figures including Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes and his old manager at Real Madrid, José Mourinho.
Choclan Montalvo is a seven-lawyer firm which says that it “specialises in criminal defence against charges of money laundering in all areas of economic activity.”
It is understood that Ronaldo will be represented by the firm’s founder, Jose Antonio Choclan Montalvo.
The trial began when Ronaldo gave a statement on 31 July at the Court of Finance Instance and Instruction No. 1 in the Madrid suburb of Pozuelo de Alarcón.
He is alleged to have hidden income from the sale of his image rights through a vehicle taking the money through Ireland and into the British Virgin Islands between 2011 and 2014.
During the trial, it was also revealed that Garrigues was acting as Ronaldo’s main adviser for his 2011, 2012 and 2013 tax returns. King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) is understood to have advised in 2014.
This came to light after Judge Monica Gomez Ferrer had given Ronaldo five days to identify in writing the people and offices that advised him during these years.
Garrigues has the largest tax practice in Spain with 84 partners split across its 18 Spanish offices. KWM has the joint 17th-largest tax practice in Spain with just a single partner in the country.
Data from The Lawyer Global 200 shows Baker McKenzie has the largest tax practice of any international firm with 211 partners.
Baker McKenzie’s tax and litigation practices are the fourth-largest in the country, boasting 11 and five partners respectively.
It is understood that Garrigues partner Diego Rodríguez Titos was responsible for the firm’s advice to the footballer.
Several Spanish-based footballer personalities have been involved in similar tax cases in recent years including Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. The Argentinian striker was found guilty last year and ordered to pay €2m and sentenced to 21 months in prison. This was then reduced to 15 months after appeal. Under Spanish law, sentences under two years can be served on probation.
Brazilian striker Neymar stood trial in May for a similar offence while he was still a Barcelona player before his world-record move to Paris St Germain in August.
Mourinho is also under investigation for alleged tax offences while he was manager of Real Madrid between 2010 and 2013.
Choclan Montlvo was approached for comment and Baker McKenzie declined to comment.