Lionel Messi accused of tax fraud

Tax authorities in Barcelona have filed a complaint against Leo Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, for alleged fraudulent tax returns of more than €4 million in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

The quantity of money involved is said to correspond to earnings from the Argentine player’s image rights for those years.

The complaint, signed by Judge Raquel Amado, has been filed at the courthouse in Gavà (Barcelona), where the Barcelona player lives, according to the Spanish news agency Efe.

According to the prosecution, “in an attempt to avoid paying tax”, parties simulated the transfer of the player’s image rights “to shell companies based in tax havens (Belize, Uruguay) and in addition, signed license, agent and service agreements between these companies and other shell companies based in countries best suited to him (UK, Switzerland).”

The prosecution states that it was discovered during the investigation that “the plan to defraud was devised by Jorge Messi”, the player’s father and agent, as it was he, in 2005, when Leo was still a minor, who commissioned a third party to create a shell company for the sole purpose of tax evasion.

In doing so, he was trying to move the money from the countries where the paying companies or organisations were based to the shell companies based in tax havens without paying hardly any tax, with a complete lack of transparency which made it hard for Spanish tax authorities to ascertain the real recipient and beneficiary of the money, the accused Lionel Messi.”

“Certain relevant information was omitted from other tax returns in order to prevent tax authorities from knowing that image rights had been transferred to overseas-based companies.”

The prosecution described in detail the amount of income tax allegedly defrauded as €1,059,398.71 during the 2007 tax year, €1,572,183.38 during 2008 and €1,533,092.87 during 2009. This amounts to €4,164,674.96 allegedly defrauded by the footballer in relation to his image rights.

The sentence for these crimes is generally a two to six-year prison sentence and a fine of between two and six times the amount of money defrauded.

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