Professional poker player Dragan Kostic has lost his bid to avoid a lengthy jail sentence and a massive financial penalty for failing to declare his poker winnings to Spain’s tax authorities.
On Monday, Spanish media outlet ABC.es reported that the Provincial Court of Palma had upheld an earlier Criminal Court of Palma judgment that sentenced Kostic to a year-and-a-half behind bars and financial penalties totaling €630k for failing to disclose his winnings from the European Poker Tour Barcelona event in 2011.
Kostic, a 55-year-old Macedonian national who has resided in Spain for the past two decades, placed second in the EPT Barcelona 2011 event, winning a tidy €532k in the process. But Kostic failed to include this windfall in its 2011 tax filing, thereby avoiding paying the €228k the tax authority later insisted it was owed from these winnings. (Making the optics even worse, Kostic reportedly earned a €1,315 tax refund that year.)
Kostic originally pleaded ignorance of his responsibility to declare poker winnings as income, while also suggesting that taxes owed had been deducted at source in other instances in which he’d collected live tournament winnings. Kostic further attempted to assign blame for the omission to the financial professional he’d hired to prepare that year’s tax return.
The Provincial Court wasn’t buying Kostic’s arguments, saying that while gambling winnings under €2,500 are exempt from tax, it was unlikely that a person whose sole income was derived from poker would be ignorant of the associated tax obligations of winnings over €2,500. The Court also noted that Kostic had declared smaller tournament scores of €20k and €7k.
In the end, the Court upheld the custodial sentence imposed on Kostic, who was also hit with a financial penalty of €400k and a back tax bill for €230,110 plus interest.