It was announced by a Spanish Judge last week that Barcelona prodigy Lionel Messi would be facing a trial for apparent tax evasion dating back to 2007-2009. This is the second high profile legal case to affect FC Barcelona in recent months following the investigation into misappropriation of funds relating to the 2013 transfer of Brazilian Neymar from Santos.
Messi’s legal team had attempted to argue that the case ought to be dropped on the basis that his father Jorge should be held culpable for the irregularities relating to the Argentine’s finances. Messi’s father acts as his representative and, according to the Barcelona star, deals with all aspects of his financial income. The Judge rejected this argument on the basis that in a case such as the present one, it would not be necessary for the accused to have absolute knowledge of the accounting and business operations; there was simply a requirement “to be aware of the designs to commit fraud and consent to them”. Messi and his father have been given a period of 5 days to appeal the ruling.
Messi, who has been named FIFA World Player of the Year no fewer than four times, has been accused of withholding payments of over 4 million euros. Despite making a corrective payment in this amount plus interest last summer, it is understood that the Spanish Authorities are keen to set a strong example and clamp down on tax fraud amid a national financial crisis. The tax payments were due under some of Messi’s lucrative image rights agreements with companies such as Adidas, Pepsi and Danone.
The Argentine’s net salary at Barcelona is reported to stand at approximately 16 million euros in addition to his worldwide multimillion sponsorship and endorsement deals. The Argentine and his father have been accused of avoiding paying tax in Spain by establishing companies in Uruguay and Belize with the ultimate aim of exploiting Messi’s image rights. No date has yet been set down for Messi’s trial.
Here at Farleys we regularly advise high profile sportspeople on the implications of taxation stemming from image rights contracts and any other income associated with the world of sport. Do not hesitate to contact us today to speak to one of our specialist solicitors on any issues relating to the above either by email or call us on 0845 287 0939.