• Spain's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Messi answers tax charges in court

AFP · 28 Sep 2013, 10:44

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."

Story continues below…

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
The good, bad and the ugly of long distance relationships
Are their advantages to loving from afar? Photo: MsSaraKelly / Flickr

Dating guru Sally Fazakerley gives us the lowdown on what it is really like to endure a long-distance relationship.

Thousands hunt Pokémon Go in Madrid to break record
Pokémon fans gather in Madrid's Puerta del Sol. Photo: AFP

It may only have been officially launched in Spain two weeks ago but already Pokémon Go already has so many fans here that Madrid set a world record.

Manhunt in Spain for abductor of teenager in Britain
Have you seen this couple? Photo: Metropolitan Police

A European Arrest Warrant has been issued for a Romanian 27-year-old accused of abducting a teenage girl from East London.

Barcelona unveils 'shame counter' of refugee deaths
Not just a number. Photo: AFP

The counter will update with each refugee victim who drowns at sea.

Spain's King Felipe VI tasks Rajoy with forming new govt
Rajoy in parliament last week. Photo: AFP

Can Rajoy do it or will there be third elections in Spain?

The Local list
Ten great reasons to discover the real Malaga right now
Malaga's modern port. Photo: Nick Kenrick/Flickr

Don't just fly into the airport and head straight for a beach resort. Here is why Malaga is now a destination in its own right.

Summer jobs bring Spanish unemployment to six-year low
Spain's tourism boom creates summer jobs. Photo: AFP

Spain's jobless rate slipped to 20 percent in the second quarter of 2016, as the tourism boom provided much needed seasonal work.

Weather
Heatwave continues and then Spain's set for sand storms
Keeping cool in a Madrid fountain. Photo: AFP

Across Spain, 22 provinces are on alert for extreme heat as temperatures soar to above 42 C.

Spanish parents fight for right to name their son 'Wolf'
Is wolf a suitable name for a boy? Photo: AFP

New parents Ignacio and Maria are furious after being told that "Lobo" - meaning Wolf – was not an appropriate name for their newborn son.

Stolen Dali masterpiece recovered from criminal gang
Dali's Adolescence was recovered in Holland. Arthur Brand / Twitter

A Dali masterpiece stolen seven years ago from a museum in the Netherlands has been recovered by an art detective.

National
7 reasons why grandparents in Spain are simply the best
Travel
Barcelona bans Segways from tourist clogged waterfront
National
Spain pays €300m each year in pensions… to dead people
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Police issue guidelines as Pokémon craze sweeps Spain
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Another dodgy art restoration raises alarm in Spain
National
Watch: Man in wheelchair zooms past Barcelona traffic
National
Woof! How to find dog-friendly beaches in Spain
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Travel
Tourist sparks bomb scare by locking suitcase to park bench
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Technology
Five brilliant apps to help improve your Spanish
National
Top ten tricks to survive the Spanish summer
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Travel
Off the beaten track: 14 best kept travel secrets in Spain
International
Keep calm and wait and see: Advice for expats post-Brexit
Features
Top 10 Spanish treats to keep you cool in summer
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
'I've had best time ever' insists American gored in bull run
Health
How to avoid heatstroke when Spain starts to sizzle
International
Champion of expat property rights in Spain awarded gong
National
Scorchio! Heat warnings issued across Spain
National
Brits demand dual citizenship for expats in Spain post Brexit
Sport
Spanish matador gored to death in the ring
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Lifestyle
Eleven types of men you might typically date in Spain
National
Spanish police rescue British teen trapped by dad in house for two years
Features
Seven burning questions for British expats about Brexit
Technology
Six free apps to simplify your summer in Spain
3,276
jobs available