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Messi faces tax-fraud suit in Spain

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Barcelona, Jun 12 (EFE).- FC Barcelona striker Lionel Messi and his father face a tax-fraud lawsuit in Spain related to returns filed in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

The suit alleges the 25-year-old, four-time world player of the year, who lives in this Spanish metropolis, defrauded the state out of more than 4 million euros ($5.3 million).

The prosecutor's office for tax crimes in the Catalonia autonomous community filed the complaint Wednesday with a Barcelona court, which must decide whether to allow it to proceed.

According to prosecutors, Messi simulated the ceding of his image rights "to shell corporations in tax havens (Belize, Uruguay) and, in complementary fashion, formalized licensing, agency or service-provision contracts between those corporations and other shell companies domiciled in convenient jurisdictions (Britain, Switzerland)."

They said the purported fraud scheme was orchestrated by the star player's father and agent, Jorge Horacio Messi, adding that in 2005 - when his son was still a minor - he entrusted a third party to create an initial shell corporation for tax-evasion purposes.

The purpose of the alleged scheme, according to prosecutors, was to transfer revenues from countries where large sums were paid for use of the player's image to shell corporations domiciled in tax havens.

The idea was for the income "not to be submitted to any taxation, with total lack of transparency toward the Spanish Treasury by the real recipient and beneficiary of this income, who was none other than the defendant, Lionel Messi."

It went on to say that "relevant information was omitted in other tax statements with the aim of preventing tax authorities from becoming aware of the ceding of rights to companies domiciled abroad."

Messi, for his part, released a statement denying the accusations, saying he had learned about them through the media and was surprised at the news.

"We have not committed any infringement. We have always fulfilled all of our tax obligations, following the advice of our tax consultants, who will take care of clarifying this situation," the player said.

Tax fraud is punishable in Spain by up to six years in prison.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/agencia-efe/130612/messi-faces-tax-fraud-suit-spain