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Soccer star Messi has his day in court over tax-fraud accusations

Player’s father takes responsibility for the situation and attempts to clear his son of any wrongdoing

Jesús García Bueno
Barcelona soccer star Lionel Messi leaves the courhouse in the coastal town of Gavà near Barcelona.
Barcelona soccer star Lionel Messi leaves the courhouse in the coastal town of Gavà near Barcelona. JOSEP LAGO (AFP)

Dressed in an elegant suit and cheered by supporters as he arrived, Barcelona and Argentinean soccer star Leo Messi appeared in a court in Gavà in the province of Barcelona on Friday to answer the accusation that he avoided paying four million euros in taxes.

Messi has already paid 15 million euros to regularize his tax situation for the years 2010 and 2011. In a statement handed to the court, his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, who has also been accused with fraud, exonerated his son and blamed business partners with whom he had entrusted the financial arrangements that led to the non-payment of taxes.

The case relates to the ceding of the player’s image rights in the period 2007 and 2009 earning the player 10.1 million euros, of which he should have paid 4.1 million to the taxman. The rights were granted to companies based in the tax havens of Belize and Uruguay for nominal amounts, while the income derived was not declared in Spain.

Jorge Horacio said there was no intention of defrauding the tax agency and would not be contesting the interpretation of events presented by the agency. “The Messi family has always wanted to act with transparency, clarity and with a spirit of collaboration, which was the case today [Friday],” Messi’s lawyer Cristóbal Martell said on leaving the court building

During a brief appearance Messi himself told the court that he did not have direct control over his financial arrangements.

The player could face up to four years in prison but the mostly likely outcome is a hefty fine.

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