Lionel Messi has everything going his way in his career and he is only a World Cup win away from being widely regarded as the all-time best player to have graced the game. His club career is undoubtedly unmatched and the fans love him. Back home, he is not any less of a celebrity.
But all that is about to be tainted. The crime prosecutors in the eastern region of Catalonia have accused Lionel and his father, Jorge, of fraud totaling more than €4 million (£3.4m). The Argentines have been alleged to have filed fraudulent tax returns for four years from 2006 to 2009.
According to the allegations, the fraud started before Messi came of age and while his father was in charge of his financial affairs. A complex netowrk of companies based in Britain, Switzerland, Belize and Uruguay were used to keep his income out of the sight of tax authorities. The authories told the Spanish news agency, EFE:
“The initiative to commit fraud came from his father.”
Although the court has yet to decide whether it will open a case against the four-in-a-row Ballon d’Or winner but tax prosecutors have lodged a writ at a court near Messi’s residence in Spain.
According to EFE, the punishment for the three separate crimes the two are accused of is six years in jail, with a fine six times the defrauded amount.
On his Facebook page, Messi made a status update in response to the accusations, he wrote:
“We have just known through the media about the claim filed by the Spanish tax authorities. We are surprised about the news, because we have never committed any infringement.
“We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations, following the advice of our tax consultants who will take care of clarifying this situation.”
Messi is one of the world’s highest-paid footballers. Forbes have listed him as the world’s tenth highest earning athlete – raking in $20.3 million (£12.96m) and an additional $21 million (£13.41m) in endorsements; a total of $41.3 million. He’s the third highest earning footballer, behind Cristiano Ronaldo ($44m) and David Beckham ($47.2m).
If the court decides to open a case against Lionel Messi immediately, he may have to return to Spain. Though it seems the court might just wait until he returns to Barcelona. As mentioned in his statement on Facebook (hard to believe Facebook is now a legitimate source, isn’t it?), he will have his tax consultants sort this out.
Lets just hope for the best while the situation gets clarified. Meanwhile, give us your verdict in the comments below.