Lionel Messi accused of defrauding Spanish tax authorities of €4m
Barcelona star expresses surprise at the fraud allegations and says he has never committed any infringement
Lionel Messi in action during Tuesday’s draw against Ecuador.
Barcelona’s world player of the year Lionel Messi has been accused of defrauding the Spanish tax authorities to the tune of €4 million.
Barcelona’s financial crimes office has registered proceedings against the Argentinean striker and his father, Jorge, for allegedly filing fraudulent tax returns between 2007 and 2009.
The case has been filed in a court in the Barcelona neighbourhood of Gavà, where Mr Messi lives.
The accusations focus on taxes due in relation to Messi’s image rights. According to Raquel Amado, the prosecutor who registered the proceedings, the footballer’s father ensured these rights were illegally registered abroad for tax evasion purposes.
Amado claims the player consented to his father’s tax-dodging plan, according to EFE news agency, which had access to the lawsuit.
Earlier this year, Messi (25) extended his contract until 2018 with Barcelona, which won this season’s Liga title.
Having made his debut for the club’s senior team in 2004, he is now purported to earn around €11 million per year plus incentives.
In January he won a record-breaking fourth Fifa Balon d’Or trophy.
Yesterday, soon after the news of the tax fraud allegations broke, the player posted a message on his Facebook page insisting there was no wrongdoing.
“We have just known through the media about the claim filed by the Spanish tax authorities,” read the statement.
“We are surprised about the news because we have never committed any infringement. We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations, following the advice of our tax consultants, who will take care of clarifying the situation.”
If found guilty, Mr Messi and his father could face a prison sentence of between two and six years and a fine worth up to six times the amount defrauded.
The striker featured in Argentina’s 1-1 draw in Quito on Tuesday against Ecuador, as part of the South American World Cup qualification campaign.