• Spain edition
 
Messi answers tax charges in court
Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

Messi answers tax charges in court

Published: 28 Sep 2013 10:44 GMT+02:00
Updated: 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
Spanish nurse with Ebola beats virus
Spanish medics treating Ebola-infected Spanish nursing assistant Teresa Romero give a press conference at Madrid's Carlos III Hospital on Tuesday. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP

Spanish nurse with Ebola beats virus

Updated: A Spanish nurse who was the first person to catch Ebola outside Africa is now free of the deadly virus, doctors confirmed on Tuesday, easing fears of it spreading in Europe. READ  

Spain can't use force to stop migrants: EU
Screen grab of a video showing how a man the human rights group Prodein has named as Danny, a Cameroonian believed to be 23 years old, was beaten by security forces with truncheon recently. Screen gra

Spain can't use force to stop migrants: EU

The EU has warned Spain it can not use violence to stop migrants from trying to enter the country after video footage emerged of a young African being beaten by Spanish border guards recently. READ  

Cinema prize
Gallery: Hits and misses of Antonio Banderas
Antonio Banderas has starred in over 100 movies, playing Benito Mussolini and Che Guevara along the way. Screen grab/YouTube

Gallery: Hits and misses of Antonio Banderas

The Málaga-born actor who cut his teeth with Pedro Almodóvar before conquering Hollywood is to be awarded the Goya (or Spanish Oscar) of Honour for lifetime achievement by Spain's Film Academy. Here The Local casts an eye over some of the best and worst films he's starred in. READ  

Spanish science
Big vocabulary could help fight Alzheimer's

Big vocabulary could help fight Alzheimer's

People with more words at their disposal might be at lower risk of developing Alzheimer's, a surprising new study by Spanish scientists shows. READ  

Spain swelters in autumn 'heatwave'

Spain swelters in autumn 'heatwave'

Weather warnings have been issued for parts of eastern Spain including Valencia and Alicante on Tuesday with temperatures expected to reach highs nearly ten degrees above average for this time of year. READ  

Madrid museum honours Hepburn's style guru
Hubert de Givenchy, who retired in 1995, was behind many of the designs worn by Audrey Hepburn in her best known films and was a lifelong friend. Photo: AFP

Madrid museum honours Hepburn's style guru

Madrid's Thyssen Museum opens on Wednesday the first major retrospective of designs by French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy, who worked for such famous clients as Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy. READ  

Family-friendly official 'sorry' he sacked mum

Family-friendly official 'sorry' he sacked mum

The mayor of Madrid mayor has ordered a councillor to reinstate a legal official he sacked after complaining she wasn't showing "complete dedication" to her job because she was a mother. READ  

Calatrava to 'rebuild' Ground Zero church
Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava has been plagued by massive cost overruns and allegations of poor use of materials. Photo: Michel Krakowski/Belga/AFP

Calatrava to 'rebuild' Ground Zero church

Controversial Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava has been given the brief to design a Greek Orthodox Church to be built on the site of New York's World Trade Centre, destroyed in terrorist attacks in 2001. READ  

Morocco oil find shakes up Canary Islands vote
Photo of oil rig: Shutterstock

Morocco oil find shakes up Canary Islands vote

Drillers say have found oil in Moroccan waters just 200 kilometres (125 miles) from Spain's Canary Islands, a possible game changer as Canarians prepare to vote on whether Spanish energy giant Repsol should be allowed to search for oil in the waters off the archipelago. READ  

Spain vows to crush 'still alive' terror group Eta
A man with a scarf with a Spanish flag and reading "Justice" at an anti-Eta demonstration in Madrid in October 2013. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP

Spain vows to crush 'still alive' terror group Eta

Spain's government vowed on Monday that it would smash the Basque separatist group Eta after claiming that it was still "alive" three years after it ended its violence. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
International
Mango apologizes for 'Nazi blouse'
National
Where's the best place to live in Spain?
Travel
Top ten: great autumn getaways in Spain
National
The great Spanish cities quiz: take it now
National
Revealed: the cost of expat food in Spain
Politics
Catalan leader calls independence vote 'lite'
What's On
Games of Thrones star 'barred' from Seville film set
Health
Spanish nurse contracts Ebola in Madrid
National
Madrid starts fining users of Uber 'taxi' app
Education
Only one Spanish university makes world's top 200
What's On
What's on in Spain: October 2014
Politics
Spanish court suspends Catalan independence vote
National
Catalonia defies Madrid and calls independence vote
National
Spanish village swaps bulls for giant balls
Society
Spain scraps plans for tough new abortion law
National
Spain's royal 'bad boy' to be sent to UK school
National
'This is a great time for entrepreneurs in Spain'
National
Loud porn movie scares locals into calling cops
National
'We'll axe Catalan autonomy but won't send in tanks'
National
Spain's Thatcher square defaced by 'Brits'
National
Top 10: best Spanish movies of all time
National
Gravedigger suspended for corpse photo gaffe
Society
Named: the best city to live in Spain
National
Catalonia's 'Diada': 5 things you need to know
Travel
Top ten amazing activities in Tenerife
National
Spain opens door to ban on burqas
Travel
Top ten: best bike rides in Spain
Travel
Spain to reopen 'world's most dangerous walk': The Camino del Rey
National
'Catalonia could be the shock Spain needs'
National
Office slang: Top ten Spanish expressions
Sport
Think you know Spanish football? Try these amazing facts
International
Australia set to welcome young Spanish workers
Opinion
Is tourism destroying Barcelona?
Society
Fashion fail: Zara pulls plug on 'Holocaust shirt' for kids
National
Man hurt as friend swaps ice bucket for plane
Spain 'would block independent Scotland from joining EU'
Politics
Spain 'would block independent Scotland from joining EU'
International
Spanish police mistake Morocco's king for people smuggler
What's On
What's on in Spain: September
Society
Miss Spain comes out of closet on Instagram
Travel
Top ten: Spain's best natural swimming pools
Property
'Dying' town flogs off land for €200 to woo new blood
National
Gays to blame for Spain's trillion euro debt: senator
Society
Spain's anti-rape guidelines: 1) Close your curtains
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

1,656
jobs available