Messi to make court appearance over tax fraud allegations

Washington: Barcelona star Lionel Messi has reportedly been ordered to make a court appearance on September 17 to face possible charges of tax fraud.

The four-time World Player of the Year and his father Jorge Horacio Messi are suspected of defrauding Spanish tax authorities of more than five million dollars between 2006 and 2009, although the duo have denied the charges.

A judge will decide after the hearing whether to go ahead with the case, which is being held in a town near Barcelona, where Messi has lived since moving from his native Argentina as a teenager.

According to the papers filed by a prosecutor, it has been alleged that Messi, who is 10th on the list of the world`s highest-paid athletes as compiled by Forbes with earnings of 41 million dollars, and his father tried to avoid paying taxes in Spain by selling the player`s image rights through overseas companies.

Using his Facebook page to deny the charges against him, Messi claimed to know through the media about the charges filed by the Spanish tax authorities, and expressed his surprise, saying that neither he nor his father have committed any infringement.

Meanwhile, Messi`s club Barcelona said that it was not involved, as the image rights payments are independent of the reported 20 million-dollar yearly salary he receives from the Spanish champion team.

Messi joined Barcelona as a 13-year-old in 2000, and has won six Primera Liga titles, three European Champions League crowns. Last year he scored an unprecedented 86 goals for club and country.