Messi tax fraud trial opens in Spain with father lined up to take the fall for son

Lionel Messi_with_no_10_shirt

June 1 – The long-awaited trial of Argentina and Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi on tax fraud charges has begun in Spain – but he will not appear in court until later this week.

Messi and his father Jorge, who manages his financial affairs, are accused of defrauding Spanish authorities of more than €4 million between 2007 and 2009. It is alleged the two used fake companies in tax havens in Belize and Uruguay to conceal earnings from image rights. They deny any wrongdoing.

The trial is expected to last for three days, with Messi, dogged by accusations for the best part of three years, due to appear on Thursday.

Messi hurt his back during Argentina’s international friendly against Honduras last Friday but when asked by the judge whether the player would attend Thursday’s hearing, his lawyer said he would.

The court appearance comes just days before he joins his Argentina team-mates for the Copa America in the United States.

Father and son have already paid €5 million to the tax authorities as a “corrective” measure after they were formally charged in June 2013.

Spanish prosecutors are seeking jail sentences for both but if found guilty, any custodial sentence would likely be suspended as is common in Spain for first offences carrying a sentence of less than two years.

Messi’s defence team have argued that the player’s father handled his finances without reporting to him, and that the striker was not aware of any wrongdoing.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1716629517labto1716629517ofdlr1716629517owedi1716629517sni@w1716629517ahsra1716629517w.wer1716629517dna1716629517