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 Rihanna 'nude photos' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Frank Lampard equalises for Manchester City against Chelsea: how the internet reacted
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
- 5 Britain First picture: Photographer 'horrified' after first Afghan policewoman killed by Taliban used for 'ban the burka' campaign
Rihanna 'nude photos' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
Jennifer Lawrence leaked 4Chan sex video branded 'fake' by forum users
Gabrielle Union contacts FBI over nude 4Chan pictures leaked by 'vultures'
Jennifer Lawrence 'naked sex video' will be leaked next, threatens 4Chan celebrity photo hacker
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
iJobs Money & Business
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...
Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...
£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...
To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...