International football star and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and his father attended a court session yesterday Thursday in Spain over charges that they evaded tax to the tune of 4.1 euros ($4.5 million) between 2007 to 2009, according to a report by USA Today.
Lionel wore a black suit and tie, and sat with his father before the judge while waiting to be called to testify on the third day of the trial. His father, Jorge Horacio Messi, who also acted as his manager and accountant was said to have created fictitious corporate entities in order to evade tax; and prosecutors say Lionel should know enough to have assented to the sordid acts.
Both the senior and junior Messi pleaded not guilty and maintained they had already paid back the money they owe Spain in tax. If found guilty, both may not be sentenced to prison terms but it is possible they will pay fine while also losing all future tax benefits, the Daily Mail writes.
The authorities had a hard time controlling crowds who had earlier arrived the court premises to see Lionel. Some chanted for him to give back the money while others hailed him as an Argentina soccer star. Due to the trial, the football professional missed his team’s preparations for COPA America which commences on Friday in the US.
Spanish tax authorities are also looking into the chances of Lionel Messi being involved in international offshore accounts which have come to be known as the Panama Papers, simply because his name was among those listed for the charges. But the player is yet to be charged with any misdeeds in this regard.
Messi is the latest high-profile player to have to deal with Spain’s tough tax system. Neymar, Javier Mascherano, Adriano and Xabi Alonso also were targeted by Spanish tax authorities recently.