MADRID, Spain, June 20 – Barcelona star Lionel Messi has been named as a suspect in a tax fraud probe and summoned to appear in court, a spokesman for the public prosecutor’s office in Barcelona said Thursday.
The 25-year-old four-time World Player of the Year and his father Jorge Horacio are accused of defrauding the Spanish tax authorities of more than four million euros ($5 million, £3.4 million).
Spanish financial crimes prosecutors filed papers with a court in Catalonia, northeastern Spain, on June 12 accusing Messi and his father of cheating on income related to the use of his image from 2006-2009.
The striker and his father aimed to deceive the state by ceding Messi’s image rights to companies based in tax havens such as Belize and Uruguay so they would pay no tax in Spain, according to the prosecutor’s complaint.
“The judge today accepted this complaint and has summoned Messi and his father to appear in court on September 17. They are considered suspects,” the spokesman for the public prosecutor’s office in Barcelona, Jose Miguel Company, told AFP.
Messi and his father have fiercely denied any wrongdoing.