Lionel Messi Faces Trial on Tax Fraud Charges, Could be Jailed
A Spanish court ordered Lionel Messi and his father Jorge on Thursday to stand trial in a tax fraud case and the state attorney said the Barcelona star should serve a jail sentence of up to 22 months if found guilty.
The two men are accused of defrauding the Spanish state of 4.2 million euros ($4.5 million) in tax from 2007 to 2009.
No date has been set for the hearing yet.
Messi’s lawyers have said the soccer star should not have to answer the charges as his father oversaw his finances. They also argued that the player had “never devoted a minute of his life to reading, studying or analysing” the contracts, El Pais newspaper reported.
However, the public prosecutor this week recommended a jail sentence of 18 months and fines of more than 2 million euros for Jorge Messi in the tax fraud case.
The court had said it was not necessary for Messi “to have full knowledge of all accounting or corporate transactions or the exact amount of the fraud” for him to have had a clear idea of an intention to defraud.
Messi and his father have already paid 5 million euros to the tax authorities as a “corrective payment” after they were formally charged in June 2013.
A court had recently rejected an appeal filed by Messi’s lawyers to drop the Barcelona player from the case. Things seemed to be going Messi’s way after prosecutors this week announced their request to clear him of any irregularities, but the judge ruled Thursday there was enough evidence of crimes committed by both Messi and his father.
The father-son duo are charged with using a web of shell companies to evade taxes on income from image rights. Revenue was hidden using companies in Uruguay, Belize, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Messi is 10th on Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s highest-earning athletes over the past decade, with income of $350 million.