SoccerWednesday, June 18, 2014
Prosecutor agrees to drop case against Messi
Lionel Messi’s public relations firm says a Spanish state prosecutor has agreed to drop the Argentine player from a tax fraud case involving Messi and his father.
BARCELONA — Spain’s public prosecutor has asked a judge to dismiss charges against Lionel Messi for alleged tax evasion, arguing his father was responsible for his finances and not the Barcelona forward.
The Argentine World Player of the Year and his father Jorge were accused last year of defrauding the Spanish state of more than four million euros (US$5.45 million)in income from Messi’s image rights by filing false returns for the years 2006 to 2009.
They have denied any wrongdoing.
Messi’s father has already assumed full responsibility for his son’s tax situation and the pair made a “corrective payment” of 5 million euros to Spanish authorities last September.
“It is clear that Lionel A. Messi did not participate in the decisions on the management and destiny of his income nor was he aware of the reach, dimension, purpose or impact of the structure of the holding (to avoid taxes),” prosecutor Raquel Amado wrote in a document published yesterday.
Messi, one of the world’s highest-paid athletes, earns just over US$40 million a season in salary and bonuses, according to Forbes magazine, as well as about US$23 million from sponsors.
The magazine has him as the fourth top-earning athlete behind boxer Floyd Mayweather, Real Madrid footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and basketball player LeBron James.
Prosecutors filed a complaint in 2013 that the 26-year-old Barcelona player and his father evaded 4.2 million euros ($5.7 million) in taxes on endorsement payments from Adidas AG, PepsiCo Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) and other companies. The government is pursuing the case after the Messis paid five million euros, the amount prosecutors say they evaded plus interest.
According to prosecutors, Jorge Messi, the player’s father, oversaw the use of companies in Belize, the UK, Switzerland and Uruguay to divert money away from the Spanish tax agency. The elder Messi has said his son had nothing to do with the tax structure.
Messi, a four-time World Player of the Year, is currently leading the Argentine national football team in the World Cup in Brazil, where he scored the winning goal in the team’s first match, a 2-1 victory against Bosnia-Herzegovina on June 15.