Lionel Messi will have to stand trial for tax fraud after the state lawyer representing Spain’s Inland Revenue successfully argued that both the player’s father Jorge Horracio and the player himself should be called to take the stand. Messi’s father has always maintained his son plays no part in the management of his money but that will now be decided by a judge with Messi called to give evidence in a court case for which a date has still not been set.
The state lawyer has called for sentences of 22 months for both Messi and his father although even in the case of both men being found guilty the sentence is likely to be suspended in view of it being a first offence. The pair are accused of using a chain of fake companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on €4.16million (£2.72m) of Messi’s income earned through the sale of his image rights during the tax years 2007, 2008 and 2009.
The Messi’s have since cleared their tax debt which will reduce any subsequent sentence. During the three years in question Messi signed contracts with Banc Sabadell, Telefonica, Danone, Air Europa, Adidas and Pepsi for the combined sum of €10m (£7.3m) but no tax in Spain was originally paid on them. The Messi family had an appeal to try only father Jorge turned down last October.
They claimed that Messi left all commercial business to his father and had not dedicated ‘even a minute’ of his life to reading or analysing it. The appeal was over-turned in a statement that read: ‘In this type of crime, it is not necessary for someone to have complete knowledge of all the accounting and business operations nor the exact quantity, rather it is sufficient to be aware of the designs to commit fraud and consent to them.’
Messi is not the only player in Spain currently being pursued over unpaid taxes. Javier Mascherano is being investigated for taxes paid for 2011 and 2012, and is due to appear in court on October 29. The Barcelona player has paid €1.5 million in back-taxes after allegedly failing to report earnings on image rights in 2011 and 2012. Spanish tax law allows a player to sell 15 per cent of his image rights to a third party company.
And Bayern Munich midfielder Xabi Alonso issued a statement last month to say he had fulfilled ‘each and every one of his fiscal obligations’ after El Mundo claimed an investigation had been opened by the public prosecutor for taxes paid in 2010.