Last-minute penalty? Messi pays €5 million to taxman in fiscal fraud case

The amount was due on undeclared income from image rights paid by companies in offshore tax havens

Lionel Messi during a training session with the Argentina squad in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires, on Tuesday.
Lionel Messi during a training session with the Argentina squad in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires, on Tuesday.JUAN MABROMATA (AFP)

Barcelona soccer star Lionel Messi and his father Jorge Horacio Messi have paid five million euros in taxes claimed by the Spanish state in a case of alleged fiscal fraud.

Messi senior deposited the amount, of which 4.1 million was in back taxes and the rest in interest, with a court in Gavá in the province of Barcelona on August 14, sources said Thursday. In the wake of this “reparatory” payment and Messi’s international standing and solvency, the court handling the tax fraud case might free the player and his father from having to deposit a civil liability bond.

The prosecution office in June opened the fraud case against Messi in June in connection with income derived from the player ceding the right to use his image. Between 2007 and 2009, Messi obtained 10.1 million euros from companies that used his image on which he should have paid 4.1 million in taxes. However, those rights were ceded to companies based in the tax havens of Belize and Uruguay for minimal amounts and the revenues derived were not declared in Spain.

Officially, Messi could face up to three years in jail and a large fine. While the Barça player is unlikely to spend any time in prison, the decision to pay the five million euros could lead to a reduced fine. The prosecutor has also named his father as the material author of the scheme to evade taxes, and if he assumes full responsibility, his son might not face any charges.

Messi and his father were cited by a court to make statements on the matter on September 17, but the soccer player’s lawyer has asked for a postponement because the date clashes with another case he is handling.

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