Europe

Lionel Messi to stand trial for tax fraud in Spain

  • 8 October 2015
  • From the section Europe
Lionel Messi gestures during a press conference in La Serena, Chile on 9 June 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Messi and his father paid €5m back to the Spanish tax authorities two years ago

Argentina and Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi and his father should stand trial on tax fraud charges, a court in Spain has ruled.

The judge in charge of the case rejected the request by prosecutors to drop the charges against the striker.

Messi and his father Jorge are accused of defrauding Spain of more than €4m (£3.1m; $5m). They deny any wrongdoing.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the tax authorities demanded 22-month jail sentences for both defendants.

Prosecutors allege that Jorge avoided paying tax on his son's earnings by using offshore companies in Belize and Uruguay in 2007-09.

Messi's lawyers had argued that the player had "never devoted a minute of his life to reading, studying or analysing" the contracts, El Pais newspaper reported earlier.

'Corrective payment'

"There are rational signs that the criminality was committed by both accused parties," wrote the judge in a court filing, according to the AFP news agency.

No date has been set for the trial of the 28-year-old footballer - the four-time World Player of the Year and one of the richest athletes in the world.

In June, the high court in Barcelona ruled that Messi should not be granted immunity for not knowing what was happening with his finances, which were being managed in part by his father.

The income related to Messi's image rights, including contracts with Banco Sabadell, Danone, Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Procter and Gamble, and the Kuwait Food Company.

Messi and his father made a voluntary €5m "corrective payment" - equal to the alleged unpaid tax plus interest - in August 2013.

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