Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 22 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 22 August 2014

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Read more

FOCUS

Lifting the veil over China's air pollution

Read more

ENCORE!

Tango Takeover in Paris

Read more

WEB NEWS

Calls for ISIS media blackout after execution of James Foley

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Steely resolve of reporters exploited by pared-down employers'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

US judge calls Argentina bond swap offer illegal

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Cécile Duflot ruffles some feathers

Read more

  • US demands Russia withdraw aid convoy from Ukraine

    Read more

  • Besieged by problems, Hollande faces unhappy return from summer holidays

    Read more

  • Central African Republic announces coalition cabinet

    Read more

  • August 22, 1914: The bloodiest day in French military history

    Read more

  • Fed Chair says US job market still hampered by Great Recession

    Read more

  • Gunmen kill scores in Iraqi Sunni mosque attack

    Read more

  • Hamas publicly executes "informers"

    Read more

  • French firebrand leftist to quit party presidency, but not politics

    Read more

  • Fear of Ebola sky-high among Air France workers

    Read more

  • US says Islamic State threat 'beyond anything we've seen'

    Read more

  • Malaysia mourns as remains of MH17 victims arrive home

    Read more

  • Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu set to be Erdogan's new PM

    Read more

  • Hollande is ‘nobody’s president’ says former French minister

    Read more

  • Two US Ebola patients leave hospital ‘virus-free’

    Read more

  • Interactive: Relive the Liberation of Paris in WWII

    Read more

Europe

Messi appears in court to answer tax fraud questions

© Photo: AFP

Video by Sarah Morris

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-09-27

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi appeared before a Spanish judge on Friday to answer questions in a tax fraud case that has shocked the sporting world. Messi is charged with evading 4.16 million euros in taxes.

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi appeared in court Friday to answer charges of evading 4.16 million euros ($5 million) in taxes in a case that stunned the sporting world.

Crowds of reporters and fans gathered as the 26-year-old Argentine international, four time winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year, arrived by car shortly before 11:00 am (0900 GMT).

Dressed in a dark jacket and white shirt, Messi made no comment as he walked up to the entrance of the court in Gava, the coastal suburb of Barcelona where he lives, for the closed-door hearing.

His father Jorge Messi, who was summoned to go before the judge ahead of the player, had arrived an hour earlier with his lawyers.

The two were summoned on charges of evading tax on the player's image rights to the tune of 4.16 million euros.

They have denied wrongdoing, pointing the finger at a former agent of the player.

The court said Jorge Messi paid the tax authorities five million euros in August -- the 4.16 million euros claimed by the taxman plus interest -- which is likely to significantly reduce any sentence should they be found guilty.

'I am not worried'

Lionel Messi's form on the field has scarcely been affected, with the Barcelona forward scoring 10 goals in just seven matches this season as the Spanish champions remain unbeaten.

"I am not worried, I'm always on the sidelines of all that, just like my dad. We have our lawyers and our advisors who handle these things. We trust in them and they will solve the issue," he said in July.

Nor does it appear to have tarnished his image among Barcelona fans.

"What I want is for this to be resolved quickly so Messi can relax and focus on the football," said one fan outside the court, Joaquin Bosch, 60, wearing a Barcelona shirt.

The case began in June when a prosecutor accused the Messis of evading tax by ceding the player's image rights to "purely instrumental entities" in Belize and Uruguay.

According to the prosecutor's report, Messi "obtained significant income" from image rights between 2006 and 2009 on which he should have paid tax in his declarations to the Spanish authorities and failed to do so.

The news caused astonishment in Spain where Messi is seen as a more humble figure than other football stars, particularly his Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

"He has a very professional image, of being focused on what he does and very close to the public," said Carles Canto, a marketing expert for IMG Consulting.

'Like siesta or paella'


Despite the initial consternation, the player's popularity doesn't appear to have diminished.

"Messi's image amongst Barcelona fans is so solid that it is very difficult for it to be clouded by this case," said Enric Baneres, a sports journalist for Catalan daily La Vanguardia.

"Tax evasion is something so common in Spain, like the siesta or paella, that the people are very permissive with it."

The player's defence looked set to point the finger at his former agent Rodolfo Schinocca.

According to a document sent by Messi's father to the court, obtained by Catalan daily El Periodico, Schinocca was put in charge of organising the "structure and management" of the income from Messi's image rights.

Schinocca told Spanish radio station Cope that he had nothing to do with the case because he stopped working with the Messis in 2006, before the supposed offences took place. He accused Jorge Messi of wanting an offshore account to manage the income from the image rights.

While Messi's 323 goals in 387 games for Barca have made him irreplaceable on the field, his income from endorsements off it has also soared.

Between 2007 and 2009 he earned more than 10.17 million euros in image rights. US magazine Forbes lists him as the 10th highest paid sportsman in the world with an annual income of $21 million from endorsements alone.

Despite the court case, Messi continues to lead advertising campaigns for brands like Adidas and video games maker EA Sports. Its latest version of the immensely popular FIFA franchise was released in Spain the day before Messi was due to appear in court with his picture on the front cover.

(AFP)

Date created : 2013-09-27

  • SPAIN

    Messi under formal investigation for tax evasion

    Read more

  • FOOTBALL

    Lionel Messi wins fourth straight Ballon d'Or

    Read more

COMMENT(S)