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Lionel Messi faces determined new foe in taxman

Authorities in Spain say Lionel Messi and his father filed fraudulent tax returns from 2006 to '09.
Breaking news messi wins fifa 2012 1 9Enlarge
Lionel Messi of Barcelona receives the FIFA Ballon d'Or 2011 trophy on January 9, 2012 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Lionel Messi, the world’s best soccer player, has a new foe to worry about: the taxman.

According to authorities in Spain, where he plays professionally for Barcelona, Messi and his father owe 4 million euros – or $5.3 million – in back taxes.

Prosecutors say Lionel and Jorge Messi filed fraudulent tax returns between 2006 and 2009, Reuters reported.

The 26-year-old superstar from Argentina said he’s innocent of any wrongdoing.

“We have just known through the media about the claim filed by the Spanish tax authorities,” a statement on his Facebook page reads.

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“We are surprised about those (sic) news, 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.”

Accusations stem from how Messi uses foreign companies in Belize and Uruguay to market his image, BBC reported.

A judge in Spain must accept the complaint before Messi is charged; he faces fines and as long as six years in jail if convicted.

According to Forbes, Messi is among the world’s best paid athletes. When you combine his salary and endorsements, he brought home $41.3 million last year. 

Adidas, Pepsi and Dolce&Gabanna are among a long list of companies that paid Messi more than $21 million in 2012 to hawk products.

FIFA has named Messi its best player in the world each of the last four seasons.

He holds records for most goals in a calendar year (91), most goals in a season in Spain (50) and most goals in a Champions League season (50).

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