New Delhi: Hours of a Spanish court ordered Lionel Messi and his father to stand trial on charges of tax fraud, Barcelona issued a statement in support of their talismanic player.
The Catalan giants expressed surprise in the recent turns of events and lend their support to the Argentine. In the statement, the club declared the following:
1. The club expresses its surprise at the difference in criteria between the public prosecutors, which on September 25 decided not to accuse Lionel Messi of tax fraud, and the verdict expressed today by the state attorney, which states the complete opposite.
2. FC Barcelona has expressed its affection and solidarity to Leo Messi and his family in such a peculiar situation. The club shall continue to offer him and his family its full support and assistance in the legal, fiscal and administrative aspects of these proceedings.
3. FC Barcelona decries the accumulation of totally inadmissible and external decisions that have been going on for some time, and that have nothing to with strictly sporting affairs. They are damaging to the good operations of the club, its stability and also that of the athletes that form part of it. The club shall be working with more determination than ever to defend its legitimate rights and is ready for any new challenges that might arise.”
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 8, 2015
On Thursday, Messi and his father Jorge Horacio were ordered to stand trial on three counts of tax fraud in Spain with the state attorney demanding a 22-month jail sentence for the Barca star.
According to court documents made public, the Spanish State Legal Service has called for a lengthy prison sentence for both for tax offences committed between 2007 and 2009. Prosecutors had previously called for an 18-month prison sentence for the player's father.
The 28-year-old forward and his father have been accused of defrauding 4 million Euros ($4.5 million) in unpaid taxes during the two-year period in Spain.
But both Messis first denied the accusations and laid the blame on a former financial adviser. Jorge, then, subsequently claimed he was in charge of his son’s finances and pleaded for charges against the player to be dropped.
Jorge also made a corrective payment of five million Euros in August 2013 to cover the alleged unpaid taxes plus interest, which should mitigate any sentence.
This development is the latest blow for the Argentine star, who will be out of action for another six weeks with a knee ligament damage. His brother Matias is also facing legal problems for having an unlicensed firearm in Argentina.
Messi gained Spanish citizenship in 2005, and has been resident of Barcelona since 2000.