Lionel Messi Due To Appear At Tax Fraud Trial In Spain

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Argentina and Barcelona football star Lionel Messi, one of the world’s highest-paid athletes, is due to take the stand Thursday for the first time at his tax fraud trial in Spain.

Messi and his father Jorge, who manages his financial affairs, are accused of defrauding Spain of more than €4m (£3m; $4.5m) between 2007 and 2009.

The authorities allege that the two used tax havens in Belize and Uruguay to conceal earnings from image rights.

Spain’s tax agency is demanding heavy fines and prison sentences. Both men deny any wrongdoing.

The trial began on Tuesday, and Thursday is expected to be the final day. A verdict is not expected until next week.
The income related to Messi’s image rights, including contracts with Banco Sabadell, Danone, Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Procter and Gamble, and the Kuwait Food Company.

Messi’s lawyers had argued that the player had “never devoted a minute of his life to reading, studying or analysing” the contracts.

But the high court in Barcelona ruled in June 2015 that the football star should not be granted immunity for not knowing what was happening with his finances, which were being managed in part by his father.

Messi and his father made a voluntary €5m (£3.8m, $5.6m) “corrective payment” – equal to the alleged unpaid tax plus interest – in August 2013.

The footballer is the five-time World Player of the Year and one of the richest athletes in the world.

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