13 Jun 2013

Messi and father accused of tax fraud in Spain

5:54 am on 13 June 2013

A Spanish prosecutor has filed a fraud complaint against Lionel Messi, alleging the Barcelona and Argentina football star owes $6.6 million in back taxes.

Messi and his father Jorge deny any wrongdoing after allegedly filing fraudulent tax returns for the years 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, according to a spokesman for the prosecutor's office for tax crimes in Catalonia.

The World Player of the Year said on his official Facebook page that they learned about the action through the media and they're surprised because they have never committed any offence and have always fulfilled all their tax obligations.

According to the charges, Messi and his father created a network of shell companies in tax havens that allowed them to reduce the tax bill on the player's earnings from selling his image rights

Messi, who will be 26 this month, is one of the world's highest-paid athletes with a salary of just over $25 million a season, according to Forbes magazine.

On top of his Barca wages, he pulls in about $26 million in endorsements from sponsors.

Messi came on for the final half-hour of Argentina's World Cup 2014 qualifier against Ecuador in Quito on Wednsday, which ended in a 1-1 draw.