Messi “will pay up” if found guilty of tax fraud

Soccer star’s lawyers put accusations down to a “difference of opinion” with Spanish tax agency

Lawyers acting for Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi on Friday said the player "scrupulously complies with Spanish legislation" in response to tax fraud allegations against the 26-year-old.

Through a statement, law firm Juárez Veciana said Messi "has paid what he is legally obliged to," and attributed the player's situation to a "difference of opinion" with the AEAT tax agency.

Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, stand accused by the public prosecutor's office of defrauding 4.1 million euros in tax relating to the use of Messi's image rights between 2007 and 2009. Both deny the allegations.

Messi and his father have been summonsed to appear at a Barcelona court on September 17 after being formally named as suspects on tax evasion charges.

Juárez Veciana said in the statement that it "firmly" believes in the innocence of its clients, although it did also announce that Messi will pay "the amounts that are finally decided" if he is found guilty. Under Spanish law, tax evasion of sums over 600,000 euros is punishable by a jail term of up to six years and a fine of up to six times the amount defrauded. However, legal experts think it extremely unlikely Messi will be given a custodial sentence if found guilty.

"We hope that the judicial investigation can be resolved as quickly as possible, as our client has been left in a position where he is unable to defend himself against media reports, which we find extremely concerning," the lawyer's office said.

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