THE date has been set for the tax trial of the world’s footballer of the year Lionel Messi, and his father in a Barcelona court. The Barcelona star and his father Jorge will appear at a court in the Catalan capital on May 31, later this year.
It is alleged that the two ceded the 28-year-old’s image rights to companies in Belize and Uruguay in order to avoid declaring money earned to the Spanish tax man. The authorities estimate that they lost out on a £3.2 million (€4.1m) portion of the profits.
Prosecutors had initially not sought charges against the Argentine international, claiming that his father was chiefly responsible for the alleged misdeeds. A judge, however, ruled differently in October and argued that there was sufficient evidence to charge both parties.
Now the two men face prison terms of 22 months if lawyers acting on behalf of the tax authorities get their way. Both deny the accusations and lay the blame firmly at the door of a former financial advisor.
Jorge Messi has already made a payment of €5 million in compensation which is expected to mitigate the consequences of any findings of guilt, while sentences under two years are usually suspended in Spain in any case.
Contracts with Banco Sabadell, Danone, Pepsi-Cola and Adidas were included in the income related to the star’s image rights while his lawyers have argued that the five-time world footballer of the year “never devoted a minute of his life to reading, studying or analysing” the paperwork.