Leo Messi and his father to be interrogated by the judge next September over alleged fiscal fraud
Last week Lionel Messi and his father Jorge Horacio Messi were formally accused by the Spanish Public Prosecution Office of having evaded €4 million in taxes regarding his image rights between 2007 and 2009. The judge in charge of the case has decided to indict the FC Barcelona player and his father. She has asked them to come to the court with their lawyers on the 17th of September to be interrogated, in order to decide whether she will formally accuse them or not. Messi’s lawyers issued a press release in which they stated the player’s will to cooperate with the judicial process and added he will pay whatever he is told. However, they also insisted on Messi’s innocence, emphasising they “are sure” he has already honoured his fiscal obligations. In addition, the Argentinean player released a statement last week fully denying the accusations.
Gavà (ACN).- On Thursday the judge asked Lionel Messi and his father Jorge Horacio Messi to come to the court on the 17th of September with their lawyers to be interrogated over the fiscal fraud accusations filed by the Spanish Public Prosecution Office. Messi’s lawyers issued a press release on Thursday evening in which they stated the FC Barcelona player’s will to cooperate with the judicial process and they added he will pay “the amount finally established”. However, the lawyers also insisted on Messi’s innocence, emphasising they “are sure that [their] client has already paid everything” he was legally obliged. Last week, on the 12th of June, the Prosecutor’s Office told the press it had filed a formal complaint against the FC Barcelona player and his father at the court of Gavà, the coastal town in Great Barcelona where the football star has his residence. A few hours later the Argentinean player released a statement fully denying the accusations and saying that his fiscal advisors will explain the situation. The Spanish Public Prosecutor Office formally accused the sportsman and his father of having evaded more than €4 million in taxes regarding his image rights between 2007 and 2009 using a network of societies based in tax havens. Once the judge in charge of the case had studied the Attorney Office’s report, she decided to indict the Argentinean player and his father. Based on the explanations given by Leo and Jorge Horacio Messi and their lawyers, the judge will decide whether she will formally accuse them or not. The indictment comes three days after the Spanish Tax Agency, which is run by the Spanish Finance Minister, publicly threatened Messi with the launch of an investigation into his revenue and tax obligations of 2010, 2011 and 2012.
The Public Prosecution Office, which is under the jurisdiction of the Spanish Justice Ministry, believes that Messi and his father hid “important revenue” deriving from image rights. According to the official accusation, Messi should have paid €1,059,398 in Income Tax in 2007, €1,572,183 in 2008 and €1,533,092 in 2009, the first year the FC Barcelona player won the Golden Boot Award. These amounts would correspond to the taxes the Argentinean should have paid for the earnings coming from his image rights in those years. However, still according to the report of the Attorney’s Office, Messi and his father “simulated” signing over those rights to societies based in fiscal havens such as Belize and Uruguay or with addresses in countries particularly permissive with such societies that have a double taxation agreement with Spain, such as the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
The Public Prosecution Office believes that the main brain behind the alleged tax evasion was the player’s father, starting when Leo Messi was still underage. Jorge Horacio Messi allegedly created a network of phantom companies based in foreign countries to avoid paying taxes. According to the accusations, Jorge Horacio Messi could have undertaken the plan with the assistance of Rodolfo Schinocca. However, a dispute between them put an end to their cooperation, according to the Public Prosecution’s views. Furthermore, still according to the Attorney’s Office, when Lionel Messi turned 18, on the 24th of June of 2005, and after he obtained Spanish nationality a few weeks later, the player “ratified” the tax-evasion strategy started by his father. Between 2006 and 2009, the Public Prosecutor believes Messi was aware that during those fiscal years “he was not paying taxes for the significant revenue deriving from signing over and exploiting his image rights”.
Messi fully denied the accusations
“We have not committed an offence” stated Lionel Messi in a note published on his Facebook account on the day the accusations were made public. “We learned about the action started by the Spanish Public Prosecution Office from the press”, stated the Argentinean player at the start of the statement, which also refers to his father. “We have always honoured our fiscal obligations following the recommendations of our fiscal advisors” Messi stated in the press release. In addition he added that their fiscal advisors “will clarify the situation” created by the Prosecution Office.
Messi’s lawyers stated they “are sure” that the football player has honoured all his legal obligations
Messi’s lawyers issued a press release on Thursday evening, a few hours later the judge decided to indict the FC Barcelona star. They emphasised the Argentinean’s will to cooperate with the judicial process and “help to solve the case and put the truth upfront”. They underlined their confidence about being able to clarify “the disparity of criteria”, while “they lamented” Messi’s honour is “put into doubt”, adding that the player “scrupulously obeys the Spanish legislation”. The lawyers stated Messi he will pay “the amount finally established” although they emphasised they “are sure that [their] client has already paid everything” he was legally obliged. They also underlined they “firmly believe in [their] client’s innocence”. The lawyers concluded their statement by asking for respect towards the work of justice, which “they totally trust”. Finally they hoped the judicial investigation will be solved quickly, since “the issue leaves [their] client in a situation of press vulnerability”, a situation “they deeply lament”.