The legal strategy to distance Leo Messi from the charges of alleged fiscal fraud leveled against him is taking shape. On August 14, the Barcelona forward handed over five million euros in taxes claimed by the Spanish state. Along with the money was a statement signed by the player’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi, exonerating the soccer star and assuming part of the responsibility himself.
Messi “has always and only devoted himself to playing soccer,” reads the three-page statement, to which EL PAÍS has had access. In it, the player’s father takes a three-pronged approach: exonerating his son, pointing to his former associate Rodolfo Schinocca, and admitting a certain lack of control over his financial advisors.
In June, the public prosecutor filed a complaint against Messi and his father for not declaring earnings derived from the ceding of the player’s image rights to the Spanish tax agency. Between 2007 and 2009 Messi earned 10.1 million euros from 20 firms, of which he should have paid 4.1 million to the taxman. But the rights were allegedly ceded to companies based in the tax havens of Belize and Uruguay for minimal amounts and the revenues derived were not declared in Spain.
The text states that Messi’s father entrusted Schinocca with managing his son’s image-rights money in 2005, when the player was still a minor. The former associate, against whom the family has lawsuits pending in the UK and Argentina, acted completely disloyally by taking control of the companies, it says.