Soccer star Messi accused of four-million-euro tax fraud

Public prosecutor files suit against Barcelona player and his father for not declaring image rights earnings from 2007 to 2009

Leo Messi reacts after Barça loses to Real Madrid in the King's Cup earlier this year.
Leo Messi reacts after Barça loses to Real Madrid in the King's Cup earlier this year. MANU FERNANDEZ (AP )

Barcelona’s public prosecutor for financial crimes on Wednesday presented a lawsuit against soccer player Lionel Messi for allegedly defrauding the Spanish tax system of over four million euros.

The Argentinean star’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi, has also been cited in the charges, which relate to a failure to declare part of the star’s earnings from his image rights in tax declarations made between 2007 and 2009.

Messi, who will be 26 years old later this month, has denied committing any infraction. “We have always attended to all our tax obligations following the advice of our financial consultants, who will take charge of clearing up this situation,” read a statement on his Facebook page.

Over those three years, Messi obtained “significant earnings” for transferring his image rights to third parties. He should have declared these to the Spanish tax authorities, but never did in all that time.

According to the suit, it was Messi’s father who came up with the alleged tax avoidance “strategy,” which the player “ratified” when he turned 18. The scheme purportedly revolves around “pretending” to transfer the Barcelona player’s image rights to front companies in the tax havens of Belize and Uruguay.

The setup, said public prosecutor Raquel Amado, allegedly allowed Messi’s earnings to be transferred from the companies paying for his image rights to the tax haven-based businesses without being subject to barely any tax and without the knowledge of the Spanish tax office.

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