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FRAUD

Messi to face court over tax fraud claims

Barcelona football star Lionel Messi has been named as a suspect in a tax fraud probe and summoned to appear in court, a spokesman for the public prosecutor's office in Barcelona said on Thursday.

Messi to face court over tax fraud claims
A Spanish judge has summoned footballer Lionel Messi and his father to appear in court on September 17th. File photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

The 25-year-old four-time World Player of the Year and his father Jorge Horacio are accused of defrauding the Spanish tax authorities of more than €4 million ($5 million, Ł3.4 million).

Spanish financial crimes prosecutors filed papers with a court in Catalonia, northeastern Spain, on June 12 accusing Messi and his father of cheating on income related to the use of his image from 2006–2009.

Messi and his father aimed to deceive the state by ceding Messi's image rights to companies based in tax havens such as Belize and Uruguay so they would pay no tax in Spain, according to the prosecutor's complaint.

"The judge today accepted this complaint and has summoned Messi and his father to appear in court on September 17th. They are considered suspects," the spokesman for the public prosecutor's office in Barcelona, Jose Miguel Company, told AFP.

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ENVIRONMENT

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.

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