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Lionel Messi Charged With Tax Fraud
Messi earned $41.3 million to June this year; with $20.3 coming from his club salary and $21 million in endorsements.
The 25-year-old Messi has won four straight FIFA world player of the year awards. He has scored 133 goals for Barcelona over the last two seasons. The forward scored 60 goals in all competitions this season, leading Barcelona to the Spanish league title.
Raquel Amado, a state prosecutor, filed a fraud complaint Barca superstar against Lionel Messi, alleging the Barcelona and Argentina striker tried to conceal the extent of his real earnings and that he owes 4 million euros ($5.3 million) in back taxes.
Amado claims that from 2006-2009 Messi "obtained significant revenue derived from the transfer to third parties of his image rights, income which should have been taxed."
The complaint says Messi "circumvented his tax obligations" by using shell companies in tax havens such as Belize and Uruguay.
The trial will be held in Gava where Messi resides.
The complaint names both Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi.
"We are surprised," Messi said on his Facebook account, "because we have never committed any infringement. We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations, following the advice of our tax consultants who will take care of clarifying this situation."
Sports finance analyst at the University of Navarra, Professor Sandalio Gomez, said that if found guilty of evading tax on his image rights, Messi could be liable to a fine amounting to 150 percent of the earnings concealed. A guilty verdict would not carry a jail sentence, Gomez said.
"I think it's grandstanding," said a sports management professor. "They see it as a demonstration effect - everybody takes notice. Everybody thinks, I'd better pay my taxes."
"If Spain is going to become as strict as northern European countries, then maybe at that point he decides that he's willing to move," Szymanski continued.
Barcelona declined to comment.
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