Messi tax fraud trial hits delay hurdle

Messi tax fraud trial hits delay hurdle
Argentina's national football team forward Lionel Messi runs during a training session in Buenos Aires on September 6th. Photo: Daniel Garcia/AFP
The case involving Barcelona star Lionel Messi and his father on tax evasion charges has been delayed until September 27th, a court statement confirmed on Tuesday.

Messi was due to appear in court in the coastal town of Gava near Barcelona on September 17, the day before Barcelona start their Champions League campaign against Ajax.

However, the Argentine's lawyers had asked for that date to be changed due to commitments on another case on the same day.

Messi and his father Jorge Horacio Messi are accused of trying to deceive the Spanish taxman to the tune of €4 million ($5 million, £3.4 million) by ceding the player's image rights to companies based in tax havens such as Belize and Uruguay.

They are alleged to have drawn up deals in Britain and Switzerland to ensure that the income passed straight into the tax havens without passing through Spain.

However, Messi's lawyers have claimed the 26-year-old has scrupulously complied with Spanish legislation and will pay any amount he is found to owe.

Last week a judge's ruling confirmed that Jorge Horacio Messi paid €5.02 million to the tax authorities as a corrective payment in August for the €4 million due in tax plus interest.

The fraud charges have come as a huge blow to Messi's previously squeaky clean reputation having avoided adverse headlines throughout his career for both his performances on the field and his behaviour off it.

The four-time World Player of the Year is one of the most marketable sportsmen in the world. Messi is ranked 10th in Forbes' list of sports stars' incomes with an annual €15.8 million from endorsements alone.

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