• Spain's news in English

Messi answers tax charges in court

AFP · 28 Sep 2013, 10:44

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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.


Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Man rescued from bin after climbing in find old clothes
Photo: Policía Local Murcia

Police were called after passersby reported hearing a man calling for help from within a rubbish bin in the Vistabella neighbourhood of Murcia, southern Spain.

Spain faces crucial week as conservatives re-take power
Mariano Rajoy hopes to form a government this week. Photo: AFP

Spain entered a crucial week as acting conservative PM Mariano Rajoy prepared to re-take power, ending ten rollercoaster months without government marked by hope and disillusion.

Eight very creepy Halloween costumes ideas from Spain
Photo: Pan's Labyrinth

Forget flamenco dancers and bullfighters, The Local counts down the freakiest alternative costume ideas to dress up in this Halloween.

Man attacked by racist thug in UK street for talking Spanish

Tomas Gil, 27, from Valencia in eastern Spain was talking to his girlfriend in their native language after a night out in the British seaside town of Poole when he was set upon by a racist thug.

Malaga: Police probe bizarre 'sex death' of homeless Brit
The man was found near Malaga airport. Photo: Dennis Howlett / Flickr

A British homeless man was found dead tied to a bench near Malaga airport with his trousers down and his genitals in a can of tuna.

Clock ticking as Spain races to avoid third elections
Third elections could now be avoided. Photo: AFP

Spain's Socialists voted on Sunday to allow the conservatives to take power, likely averting a third election for Spaniards tired of going to the polls.

Spain worries about tourism future
Photo: Josep Lago / AFP file picture

After basking in its best tourist summer season in 15 years, Spain now sees dark clouds on the horizon as popular destinations reach saturation point and holidaymakers are more thrifty, industry experts say.

Spain's Socialists lift veto on Rajoy to break deadlock
The Socialists have decided to lift their veto on the minority conservative government or not. Photo: Gerard Julien/ AFP

Spain's embattled Socialists on Sunday voted to lift a long-standing veto that has prevented the conservatives from forming a minority government, in what should finally end a ten-month political impasse.

Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Spanish 'La Mafia' restaurants banned after Italian complaint
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Hunt launched for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Napflix: Spaniards launch very boring TV channel for siestas
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
jobs available