Messi testifies before the court over alleged tax evasion
Leo Messi and his father testified this Thursday before Barcelona’s High Court. They are accused of having moved 4.1m EUR earned from the player’s image rights to tax havens between 2007 and 2009. In his statement, the FC Barcelona player assured that his life is “limited to playing football” and that he had “full confidence” in his father and the lawyers who managed his publicity contracts. This is the same statement that Messi gave in 2013, when he had to testify before the Court for the same case. Spain’s Tax Agency has requested 22 months in prison for each of them for having moved 4.1m EUR earned from publicity contracts to tax havens between 2007 and 2009. On the other hand, the public prosecutor is only accusing Messi’s father.
Barcelona (CNA).- FC Barcelona’s crack shot, Leo Messi, and his father, Jorge Horacio, appeared this Thursday before Barcelona’s High Court to testify in their tax evasion trial. Spain’s Tax Agency has requested 22 months in prison for each of them for having moved 4.1m EUR earned from publicity contracts to tax havens between 2007 and 2009. On the other hand, the public prosecutor is only accusing Messi’s father. Leo Messi was accompanied by his brother Rodrigo and several members of FC Barcelona, who aimed to show the club’s support for the Argentinian footballer. During his statement, Messi repeated the same statement he already gave in 2013 when he was called before the Court for the same case; he emphasised that his life is “limited to playing football” and that he had “full confidence” in his father and the lawyers who negotiated his contracts and image rights.
Leo Messi and his father are suspected of using companies abroad - in Belize and Uruguay - to sell the rights to use Messi's image. The contracts which are now being analysed by Barcelona’s High Court were signed with FC Barcelona and sponsors such as Adidas, Pepsi, Konami, Procter & Gamble, Danone, Telefonica and Banc Sabadell, besides companies from countries such as Qatar and Kuwait, amongst others. Thus, it is claimed that Messi had a gross revenue of 2.57m EUR in 2007, which he allegedly hid from the Spanish authorities, and which represented a 1.06m EUR tax loss for the Spanish Tax Agency. In 2008, it is alleged that he earned 3.84m EUR and evaded 1.58m EUR in taxes and in the following year allegedly earned 3.8m EUR and denied the Spanish Authorities of 1.53m EUR in taxes.
The State Attorney, representing Spain’s Tax Agency, accuses Jorge Horacio Messi of committing three tax offences and therefore requests that he receive a term of 18 months in prison. The request takes into consideration the fact that in 2013 Leo Messi already paid 5 million euros to cover the debt plus interest.
On the other hand, the public prosecutor considers valid the explanations the father and son gave in 2013 and repeated this Thursday. According to them, Leo Messi only signed the contracts, sometimes even without reading them, and was completely unaware of their content. Indeed, the Barça player never met with the lawyers and only knew the amount that the publicity contracts would mean for him.
The trial against Leo Messi has drawn huge attention. More than 200 journalists from 50 media outlets from all over the world are following the process, which started on Monday. However, Leo Messi’s testimony was the most anticipated event for the cameras, and also for the hundreds of supporters and detractors who gathered this Thursday outside the Court.