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Soccer's Messi, father in court for tax evasion hearings

Sept. 27, 2013 at 11:10 AM
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BARCELONA, Spain, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Soccer superstar Lionel Messi and his father went before a Spanish court to answer charges they evaded paying more than $6 million in taxes.

Prosecutors have accused Messi, a forward for Barcelona's La Liga club, and his father, Jorge, of using off-shore tax havens to avoid paying taxes in Spain on "image rights" income from 2007 through 2009, ESPN.com reported.

Messi, voted world player of the year four times, and his father were questioned in a closed session in a court in Gava, a wealthy Barcelona suburb where Messi has a home, the British newspaper The Guardian said.

Messi, widely recognized as the best player in the world today, and his father deny these charges, saying in a statement, "We have always fulfilled our tax obligations following the advice of our tax consultants who will take care of clarifying this situation."

When the accusations first surfaced, the father and son paid $16 million in taxes due on such income for the years 2010 and 2011. In August, they reportedly paid $8 million for money owed, plus interest, for the 2007-2009 period.

Neither man spoke with reporters after the hearing called to determine whether the court will pursue tax evasion charges.

In a pre-trial court filing, they said they were unaware they had been badly advised by accountants and tax consultants at the time the alleged conduct occurred, ESPN.com said. This document also indicated that the father would take responsibility for any wrongdoing because the son was not involved in his own financial affairs.

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