Lionel Messi could still be prosecuted for tax evasion in the Spanish courts, judges have confirmed, despite calls for the charges to be dismissed.
The four-time World Player of the Year and most recently named best player at the World Cup in Brazil, Messi stands accused of defrauding the Spanish state out of more than €4 million (£3.1 million).
In June, the country’s public prosecutor applied for the charges against the player to be dropped after it was claimed his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, had sole control over the family’s finances.
But rejecting that application, a court statement claimed there was “sufficient evidence” to suggest the Barcelona star could have been aware that the alleged fraud was taking place.
Judges said it was not necessary for the younger Messi “to have full knowledge of all accounting or corporate transactions or the exact amount of the fraud” for him to “have known and consented” in the alleged crime.
Prosecutors had previously asked the court in Gava, Barcelona to investigate whether the Messis had created a fictitious corporate structure to avoid paying taxes on income from his image rights from 2006 to 2009. The family has denied any wrongdoing.
Though the judge ruled yesterday that the investigation into both Messis should continue, it will ultimately be up to the Tax Office and State Prosecutor’s office to make a final decision on whether or not the case should go to court.
Messi is one of the highest-paid athletes in the world, earning more than $63 million (£37.1 million) a year in salary, bonuses and sponsor payments, according to Forbes magazine.
He ranks as the fourth-best-paid sportsman, behind the boxer Floyd Mayweather, Real Madrid footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and basketball player LeBron James.