Football’s golden boy Lionel Messi might be in trouble.
Spain’s state attorney has demanded a 22-month jail sentence for FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi in a tax fraud case, court documents showed on Thursday. Lionel Messi and his father Jorge have been ordered to appear in court on charges of defrauding the Spanish tax authorities of more than €4 million ($4.5 million).
The 4 time Ballon d’Or winner and his father Jorge have been ordered to appear in court on charges of defrauding the Spanish tax authorities of more than €4 million ($4.5 million). Spain’s public prosecutor has recommended a jail sentence totaling 18 months and fines of more than €2 million for Jorge Messi for allegedly defrauding the state of €4.2 million for the years 2007-2009.
The court had previously ruled that Messi could have known about and approved the creation of a web of shell companies that were allegedly used to evade taxes on income from image rights. Revenue had been hidden using companies in Uruguay, Belize, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Messi and his father paid €5 million to the tax authorities as a ‘corrective payment’ after they were formally charged in June 2013. Lionel Messi has been resident in Barcelona since 2000 and gained Spanish citizenship in 2005.
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.
“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.
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.
He is 10th on Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s highest-earning athletes over the past decade with income of $350 million.