by Emmanuel Chidiogo
A Spanish judge has rejected a request by prosecutors to drop charges of tax fraud against four time Ballon D’or winner, Lionel Messi, and has ordered the investigation into three cases of suspected unpaid taxes to proceed.
Although, prosecutors argued in June that Messi’s father Jorge was responsible for the family’s finances and not the four-time World Player of the Year, a court statement said there was “sufficient evidence” to believe the Barcelona and Argentina star “could have known and consented” to the creation of a fictitious corporate structure to avoid paying taxes on income from his image rights.
Messi’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi, who is under investigation for an alleged 4 million euros ($5.3 million) in unpaid taxes from 2007-09, made a payment of more than 5 million euros ($6.6 million) in August 2013 to cover alleged unpaid taxes, plus interest.
Monday’s statement in court said it was not necessary for Messi “to have full knowledge of all accounting or corporate transactions or the exact amount of the fraud” for him to have had a clear idea of an intention to defraud.
Messi, one of the world’s highest-paid athletes, earns just over $40m a season in wages and bonuses, according to Forbes magazine, as well as about $23m from sponsors.
Forbes has him as the fourth top-earning athlete behind the boxer Floyd Mayweather, Real Madrid footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and basketball player LeBron James.