Messi Absent as His Tax Fraud Trial Begins in Spain

The trial of Lionel Messi over tax fraud charges to the tune of €4m began in Barcelona on Tuesday with the Argentina captain preparing for the Copa America with his international teammates.

The Barcelona talisman, who just completed a second consecutive Spanish double with Luis Enrique’s side, finally goes to trial with his father on accusations that have lingered since 2013.

Messi, 28, and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, have been accused of using a chain of fake companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on €4.16m of income earned through the sale of his image rights from 2007-09, Telegraph writes.

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Spanish prosecutors are seeking a jail sentence of 22-and-a-half months for Messi and his father if they are found guilty on the three count charge, plus fines equivalent to the amount that was allegedly defrauded.

However, any such sentence would likely be suspended as it is common in Spain for first offences carrying a sentence of less than two years.

Dozens of journalists, from around the world were at the Barcelona court for the start of the trial which is expected to last until Thursday when Messi and his father will take the stand.

Messi’s lawyer, Javier Sanchez-Vera, said the megastar couldn’t be in court today as a result of a lower back injury he suffered during a friendly against Honduras last week.

Sanchez-Vera also argued that the player’s father handled his finances without reporting to him, and that the forward was not aware of any wrongdoing.

The five-time ballon d’Or winner reportedly told a judge back in September 2013 that he knows nothing of the infraction as he’s only interested in playing football.

“This is something that my dad manages. And I trust him. I devote myself to playing football,” he allegedly said.

”I do what he tells me to. I signed things, but I never look at the contracts. I don’t know what I sign.”

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