A judge in Spain has rejected a prosecutor’s request to drop charges of tax fraud against Lionel Messi and has ordered the investigation into three cases of suspected unpaid taxes to proceed. A court statement said that there was "sufficient evidence" to believe that the Barca player "could have known and consented" to the creation of a fictitious corporate structure to avoid paying taxes on income from his image rights.
Messi father and son first appeared in court last October, in Barcelona, where the footballer is revered as a ‘god, having been charged with defrauding the Spanish state to the tune of €4.2m (£3.5m) by evading tax on earnings from Lionel’s personal endorsements. The winner of the Golden Ball at the recent World Cup is alleged to have done this by using a number of shell companies set up in tax havens to shield royalties and other licensing income from Spanish income tax.
The tax havens, said to be located in Belize and Uruguay, were the ultimate destination for the funds, which were allegedly funnelled through an elaborate maze including the UK and Switzerland. The Messis were hoping at the time that the charges would be dropped, and a prosecutor apparently said that they would be as recently as June, but now that the state’s forensic accountants have uncovered the “sufficient evidence”, the case could go all the way.
Once the investigating judge finishes his deliberations, he will give the Tax Office and the State Prosecutor's office 10 days to come up with a strong case against the pair or a final decision to dismiss the case, so the forensic accountants on both sides will be working around the clock to either prove or disprove the allegations.
Author: Roger Isaacs, 12 August 2014
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