Lionel Messi's toughest game – with the Spanish taxman
Barcelona star in court over claims he defrauded authorities of millions of euros
Jim Armitage is the City editor of The Independent and London Evening Standard group of newspapers. He has been a reporter and editor for more than 20 years and was recently shortlisted for the Press Gazette financial journalist of the year and The Society of Editors financial journalist of the year awards. He contributes news, investigative reports and comment to the Independent titles plus a daily column in the Evening Standard.
Friday 27 September 2013
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 man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
- 4 Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
- 5 How to gain confidence and maximise your sexual potential
Boston Marathon runner's search for mystery man she kissed ends with letter from his wife
Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian combined with near-naked ensemble
In defence of liberal democracy
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
Andy McSmith's Sketch: Feisty audience is the real star of an enlightening show
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...
£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...