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Lionel Messi and father in court on alleged tax fraud charges

Lionel Messi and his father, Jorge Messi, are accused of establishing shell companies in South America to avoid paying millions of dollars in taxes.
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Lionel Messi of Barcelona receives the FIFA Ballon d'Or 2011 trophy on January 9, 2012 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Argentine international soccer player and Barcelona FC talisman Lionel Messi made headlines Friday, but not in the usual way of herculean goals and magical footwork on the pitch.

Messi, a four-time World Footballer of the Year award recipient, is considered by many to be the best soccer player in the world - perhaps the best in history - and despite unprecedented success and massive amounts of media attention, he's somehow managed to keep a pristine image.

You won't find many verifiable stories of Messi doing the kind of offensive or illegal things world famous athletes sometimes do, and yet, Messi and his father, Jorge Messi, are now entangled in a multi-million dollar tax fraud case in Spain.

The duo went before a judge on Friday for allegedly evading taxes on profits Messi made from selling his image rights between 2006 and 2009 by filing incomplete tax returns.

"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," Messi said in July.

Neither spoke during the hearing, according to Reuters, but their lawyer, Cristobal Martell, did say they had "proved the absence of intent to defraud and their great willingness to set the matter straight with the tax authorities."

The case may strike a nerve in Spain, where the unemployment rate is about 26 percent. Messi is one of the world's highest paid athletes. He made about $41 million dollars in 2012, according to Forbes.  

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/world-at-play/lionel-messi-and-father-court-alleged-tax-fraud-charges