International football star, Lionel Messi is set to face trial for an alleged tax fraud following the rejection of his appeal by a judge in Barcelona.
The four time World Player of the Year, and his father Jorge Messi stand accused of defrauding Spanish Tax Authorities of €4 million. Both father and son deny the allegations.
Lionel Messi, and his father Jorge Messi, are suspected of using companies in the UK, Switzerland, Belize and Uruguay to sell the rights to use Lionel Messi's image.
This complicated structure allowed Messi to circumvent tax obligations in Spain. The allegations date back to 2006-09- beginning when Messi was underage.
The star has argued that he had no understanding or say in his financial management, and that his father and representative Jorge Messi was entirely responsible. His father has mirrored this claim, he said:
"I have always said it: he [Lionel] had absolutely nothing to do with it, so there is no need to talk about it. My lawyers are dealing with this issue so it's something with me and has nothing to do with him."
However, the court recently rejected this argument. Messi will potentially face a €26 million fine, and a one year suspended prison sentence if convicted.
This harsh approach by the Spanish authorities may be reflective of the economic situation in Spain. The prosecution of this case is in stark contrast to the approach taken previously towards international football stars.
In 2006, when Real Madrid hired David Beckham, the law was tailored to the soccer star. A legal reform known as the "Beckham Law" was introduced. This allowed foreign players to pay most of their tax abroad, amounting to a legalization of tax evasion. However, unluckily for Messi, this has since been reformed.
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