Spanish Grandmaster Francisco Vallejo Pons left the European Individual Championship after the fifth round on March 22 as tax authorities were chasing him. The Spanish tax department is trying to seize more than half a million Euros from the chess player, who was playing the championship in Batumi, Georgia.

Paco Vallejo was the 4th seeded player at the European Individual and via Facebook posted a long and personal message stating his ordeal.

“We go back to the year 2011. I play some online poker, for fun, I’m not a gambler by any means. I lost everything, a few thousand and I stopped playing. Then I stopped.

In 2016 I received a letter from the [Spanish tax authority] requesting more than 6 figures! More than half a million euros because I played poker and I lost. It seems a macabre joke, but it is not, from that moment begins a snowball that crushes you.”

Vallejo has become the victim of an old Spanish law (which ceased to exist in 2012, a year after he stopped playing poker online) under which any online “gambling” earnings are subject to 47 per cent taxes, while any losses cannot be deducted. In 2016, the Spanish tax authority started to investigate Vallejo and looked back for five years just enough to decide his earnings still fell under the old law. Vallejo said that he never played a lot of poker, as his chess always came first. During that period, his earnings were a bit over a million, but his losses were slightly more than that in poker.

“As of 2016, lawyers begin, meetings begin with the [Spanish tax authority], I start canceling tournaments, skin infections begin due to nerves, I have to cancel my participation with the national team because I honestly cannot stand the pressure, in more than one game I practically have tears in the eyes. To finish off all this, it coincides with my mother [losing money due to an investment loss by Santander bank] and with a very serious health infection abroad that nearly ends her life, and which I could not support because the [Spanish tax authority] has already taken everything I had and still claims more...”

Vallejo says it’s the first time ever that he left a tournament early, but that his mind is unable to endure long tournaments right now.