Fri, Sep 06, 2013 - Page 20 News List

Messi, father pay 5m euro fine for alleged tax fraud

Reuters, MADRID

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and his father, Jorge, have paid 5 million euros (US$6.6 million) to the Spanish authorities after they were accused in June of filing false tax returns, a Spanish court statement said on Wednesday.

The Argentine pair deposited 5,016,542.27 euros last month as a “corrective payment,” the court in Gava near Barcelona said.

They were due to appear at a hearing on Sept. 17, although their lawyer has asked for it to be postponed as he has a prior commitment on that day, the statement added.

The World Player of the Year and his father, who both denied any wrongdoing, allegedly hid more than 4 million euros by filing incomplete returns between 2006 to 2009.

The sale of Messi’s image rights had been hidden using a complex web of shell companies spread across Uruguay, Belize, Switzerland and the UK, the Prosecutors’ Office for Tax Crimes in Catalonia said.

“I never take care of that stuff myself and neither does my father,” the 26-year-old player said in July.

“We have our lawyers and our wealth managers to take care of that and we trust them and they will sort this out,” he added. “The truth is that I don’t have a clue about all this and that is why we have people taking care of it.”

Messi has been a Barcelona resident since 2000 and gained Spanish citizenship in 2005.

He is among the world’s highest-paid athletes and earns just more than US$20 million a season in wages and bonuses, according to Forbes magazine.

He also pulls in about US$21 million in endorsements from partners, including Adidas, Pepsi Co, P&G and Turkish Airlines and is 10th on Forbes’ latest list of top-earning athletes.

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