Lionel Messi to stand trial for tax fraud in Spain; faces 22-month sentence

Lionel Messi and his father Jorge Horacio will stand trial for three counts of tax fraud in Spain.

Lionel Messi to stand trial for tax fraud in Spain; faces 22-month sentence

New Delhi: Lionel Messi and his father Jorge Horacio will stand trial for three counts of tax fraud in Spain with the state attorney demanding a 22-month jail sentence for the Barcelona star.

According to court documents made public on Thursday, the Spanish State Legal Service has called for a lengthy prison sentence for the Argentines 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.

The prosecutors did acknowledged in a statement that Messi is "no expert" in tax matters, but claimed that he "could not be unaware" that a significant portion of his income from the use of his image rights came from companies in offshore tax havens like Uruguay and Belize.

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.

A date for the trial, which will take place in Vilanova i la Geltru, a town 30 miles south of Barcelona, has not yet been set. The four-time World Player of the year will be required to present in the trial.

This development is the latest blow for the Argentine, 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.

According to Forbes magazine, Messi is the fourth richest sportsman in the world. And he is widely regarded as the favourite to win the Ballon d’Or – for a record fifth time – after leading Barca to a treble of Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey titles last season.

(With Agency inputs)

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