• Spain's news in English
 

Messi answers tax charges in court

Published: 28 Sep 2013 10:44 GMT+02:00

Dressed in a dark jacket and white shirt, the 26-year-old Argentine international made no comment before or after the closed-door hearing on Friday at a court in Gava, the coastal suburb of Barcelona where he lives.

Testimony by the four-time winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year award revealed his desire to resolve the matter, Messi's lawyer, Cristobal Martel, told reporters after the hearing.

"It showed little intent to defraud and great intent to resolve the situation with the tax office instead of entering into a bitter battle with the state," the lawyer said.

Crowds of reporters and fans gathered outside the court where first Messi's father Jorge Messi and then the player himself were quizzed on charges of evading tax on the striker's image rights to the tune of €4.16 million.

They have denied wrongdoing, pointing the finger at a former agent of the player.

The court said Jorge Messi paid the tax authorities five million euros in August -- the 4.16 million euros claimed by the taxman plus interest -- which is likely to significantly reduce any sentence should they be found guilty.

Lionel Messi's form on the field has scarcely been affected, with the Barcelona forward scoring 10 goals in just seven matches this season as the Spanish champions remain unbeaten.

"I am not worried, I'm always on the sidelines of all that, just like my dad. We have our lawyers and our advisors who handle these things. We trust in them and they will solve the issue," he said in July.

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella also appeared unconcerned Friday, calling up Messi for next month's World Cup qualifiers despite having already secured a place at the 2014 finals.

Neither do Messi's legal problems appear to have tarnished his image among Barcelona fans.

"What I want is for this to be resolved quickly so Messi can relax and focus on the football," said one fan outside the court, Joaquin Bosch, 60, wearing a Barcelona shirt.

The case began in June when a prosecutor accused the Messis of evading tax by ceding the player's image rights to "purely instrumental entities" in Belize and Uruguay.

According to the prosecutor's report, Messi "obtained significant income" from image rights between 2006 and 2009 for which he failed to pay required taxes.

The news caused astonishment in Spain where Messi is seen as a more humble figure than other football stars, particularly his Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

"He has a very professional image, of being focused on what he does and very close to the public," said Carles Canto, a marketing expert for IMG Consulting.

Despite the initial consternation, the player's popularity doesn't appear to have diminished.

"Messi's image amongst Barcelona fans is so solid that it is very difficult for it to be clouded by this case," said Enric Baneres, a sports journalist for Catalan daily La Vanguardia.

"Tax evasion is something so common in Spain, like the siesta or paella, that the people are very permissive with it."

According to a document sent by Messi's father to the court, obtained by Catalan daily El Periodico, his former agent Rodolfo Schinocca was put in charge of organising the "structure and management" of the income from Messi's image rights.

Schinocca told Spanish radio station Cope that he had nothing to do with the case because he stopped working with the Messis in 2006, before the supposed offences took place. He accused Jorge Messi of wanting an offshore account to manage the income from the image rights.

While Messi's 323 goals in 387 games for Barca have made him irreplaceable on the field, his income from endorsements off it has also soared.

Between 2007 and 2009 he earned more than €10.17 million in image rights. US magazine Forbes lists him as the 10th highest paid sportsman in the world with an annual income of $21 million from endorsements alone.

Despite the court case, Messi continues to lead advertising campaigns for brands like Adidas and video games maker EA Sports. Its latest version of the immensely popular FIFA game franchise was released in Spain the day before Messi was due to appear in court with his picture on the front cover.

AFP

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Ryanair takes on Spain’s air traffic controllers
Ryanair have launched a campaign to keep skies open. Photo: Philippe Huguen / AFP

Ryanair takes on Spain’s air traffic controllers

Budget airline Ryanair has called on members of the public across Europe to back its new campaign to stop air traffic controllers going on strike, ahead of partial stoppages called by Spain’s air traffic controllers during two weekends in July. READ  

The ultimate guide to Madrid's Gay Pride 2015
Europe's biggest LGBT pride event will take place in Madrid from July 1st - July 5th. Photo: Dominique Faget/AFP

The ultimate guide to Madrid's Gay Pride 2015

From drag-queen stiletto racing to Rick Astley, this year's Madrid pride promises to be better than ever. The Local takes a look at the highlights. READ  

The Local List
The ten most repressive points of Spain's gag law
Spaniards have been protesting as the country's new "gag law" comes into force. Photo: Dani Pozo/AFP

The ten most repressive points of Spain's gag law

Its many detractors complain that the new "gag law" introduced today harks back to the repressive days of the Franco regime. Here are a list of its most controversial points. READ  

Heatwave
How 'Spanish plume' set off a heatwave in the UK
A man relaxes in a deck chair in central London. Photo: Bed Stansall / AFP

How 'Spanish plume' set off a heatwave in the UK

A heatwave has hit the UK, largely due to a flow of very warm air from southern Europe, and in particular the Iberian peninsula. Meteorologist Peter Inness explains the weather phenomenon. READ  

Man drunk in charge of a bike fined €1,000 in Spain
A cyclist has been fined €1,000 for being over the alcohol limit in Spain. Photo: knehcsg/Flickr

Man drunk in charge of a bike fined €1,000 in Spain

A man in northern Spain has been fined €1000 ($1,110) for cycling under the influence of alcohol. READ  

Heatwave
Hay 'spontaneously combusts' in heatwave
A photo of Cantabrian cattle. Photo: Javier Mediavilla Ezquibela / Wikimedia Commons.

Hay 'spontaneously combusts' in heatwave

The heatwave spreading across Spain and western Europe almost claimed some cattle victims when hay stored inside a barn full of cows spontaneously combusted in the heat. READ  

John Noakes 'recovering well' after missing ordeal
John Noakes with Shep during his Blue Peter days. Photo: BBC archive

John Noakes 'recovering well' after missing ordeal

The Blue Peter legend who was missing for ten hours yesterday on one of the hottest days of the year is said to be recovering well at his home after being found by police in a storm drain. READ  

Ibiza opens exclusive whimsical dining club
The men behind former "best restaurant in the world" ElBulli have opened a new venture in Ibiza. Photo: Jamie Reina/AFP

Ibiza opens exclusive whimsical dining club

Ibiza has a new place to see and be seen, a venue that promises to be the 2015 celebrity hang out of the White Island. And of course it comes with a price tag: €100 just to visit the terrace. READ  

Spain's 'gag law' brought into force amid protests
Demonstrators with gags protest against the new law in Madrid. Photo Dani Pozo / AFP

Spain's 'gag law' brought into force amid protests

The controversial public security law comes into force on Wednesday amid fears that it will limit freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest. READ  

Spanish police bust international drug ring
Police 3.5 tonnes of cocaine in the bust. Photo: Interior Ministry

Spanish police bust international drug ring

Spanish police said on Tuesday they had smashed an international drug ring, seizing 3.5 tonnes of cocaine and €9 million ($10 million) during a two-year investigation. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
What's on in Spain: July 2015
National
The ten most repressive points of Spain's gag law
National
Spain celebrates ten years of gay marriage
Travel
Top ten tricks to survive the Spanish summer
National
Woof! The top ten dog-friendly beaches in Spain
National
Driver fined €80 for biting fingernails at the wheel
National
Castle for sale, one-time pad of mad queen, €15 million
National
And the most beautiful plaza in Spain is...?
Politics
Spanish mayor's rogue little toes go viral
Top that! Italy snatches pizza title from Spain
National
Diphtheria is 'Russian roulette with real bullets'
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: 9 questions every expat should ask
Politics
French PM takes flak for taking his kids on state jet to footy final
National
Spain's little 'prince' shamed for racist rant
National
Spain world's second best for work-life balance
Travel
Barcelona most bike-friendly city on the Med
National
British expat fury over EU referendum snub
Politics
Madrid goes mad for radical mayor Manuela
10 super Spanish drinks everyone should try
National
Are these Spain's ten most powerful women?
National
Horse deaths reveal dark side of Rocio pilgrimage
Travel
Six of the best gourmet burger joints in Madrid
Travel
The ten best places for foodies in Barcelona
Education
7 reasons for Spain's newfound love of English
Features
7 reasons why Spain's the best place on earth
National
The perks and quirks of having a baby in Spain
National
Iceland revokes order to 'kill Basques on sight'
National
Five reasons why it’s good to be gay in Spain
National
Job creation? The truth behind Spain's figures
National
Spain among ten best countries to be a mum
National
The ten greatest things about Spain (in the UK)
National
British expats fall victim to NHS clampdown
Features
Top ten: Madrid's best rooftop bars
Travel
Benidorm: Cultural wonder of the world?
National
King Juan Carlos led 'double-life' with lover
Features
Ten best UNESCO world heritage sites in Spain
Features
Happy book day! Top ten Spanish literary gifts
Features
All the fun of the fair: Seville's Feria de Abril
National
Off with her hair! Queen Letizia debuts new do
National
Barcelona bans tourists from famous market
National
Rockers pen 'We don't love Ryanair' ballad
Travel
Location tours start for 'Game of Thrones' fans
National
Top ten things to do in Castellón
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,376
jobs available