Barcelona star Lionel Messi to face trial for alleged €4.1m tax fraud

 
Joe Hall
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Lionel Messi arriving at court in 2013 to face charges of tax fraud (Source: Getty)

Four days after winning the Champions League, Barcelona star Lionel Messi was brought back down to earth as a Barcelona court ruled he must face trial for alleged tax fraud.

Messi and his father Jorge are accused of evading €4.1m (£2.99m) of income tax in Spain through shell companies in Uruguay and Belize.

Both men deny the charges, but Messi will now face trial after after a Barcelona court rejected an appeal from his legal team to prevent the star from going to court.

Read more: The cost of signing Lionel Messi

Messi is currently training with the Argentina squad ahead of the Copa America tournament which kicks-off this weekend in Chile. The four-time Ballon d'Or winner enjoyed a spectacular season for Barcelona, scoring 58 goals as he guided the Catalan club to a record-breaking second treble.

Yet the man considered by many to be football's greatest ever player could now see his reputation damaged by charges of tax avoidance on lucrative sponsorship and image rights contracts signed between 2007 and 2009.

Messi denies having knowledge of the offshore shell companies - arguing they were set up his father - but judges in a Barcelona court ruled that ignorance was not a defence as his name appeared as the sole administrator of the named companies, even if it was managed by others.

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