Lionel Messi's toughest game – with the Spanish taxman
Barcelona star in court over claims he defrauded authorities of millions of euros
Lionel Messi will today be facing his toughest opponent yet: the Spanish tax authorities.
The Barcelona star and his father have fallen foul of a major clampdown in the country against suspected tax evasion as it attempts to plug its vast deficit, projected this year to top 6 per cent of its entire GDP.
Now one of the most famous footballers in the world will appear in a Barcelona criminal court today accused of evading €4.2m (£3.5m) in tax on payments from Adidas, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble and others. The Messis are alleged to have diverted €10m to low-tax destinations Belize and Uruguay between 2007 and 2009.
Sports stars are in the authorities' sights because they often use a tax scheme whereby they form image rights companies through which they are paid their sponsorship fees. The rights companies are often based in offshore tax havens and players can take their pay out of the company in the form of dividends or loans, evading yet more duty. Messi and his father Jorge deny the charges, with Jorge blaming a sports agent the family hired in 2005.
Critics say Spanish politicians have turned a blind eye to the tax affairs of high-profile clubs in order to curry favour.
"Every government knows it needs to have football supporting them," tax lawyer Pablo Alarcon told Bloomberg. "It's like the old Roman times, with bread and circuses. Give the people circuses and you can handle them."
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 2 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 4 Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary: Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Greece elections: Greek PM Alexis Tsipras takes aim at 'neo-liberal' Europe as country gears up for prolonged austerity battle
Pornhub star Mia Khalifa receives death threats after being ranked the site's top adult actress
Prince Philip set to be knighted by Australia: Celebrate by reading his greatest gaffes
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
Leaked documents show Ukip leaders approve NHS privatisation once it becomes more 'acceptable to the electorate'
iJobs Money & Business
£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...
£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...