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Lionel Messi tax fraud case: Prosecutor claims Messi has not been completely honest in court

Rohith Nair
7.00K   //    04 Jun 2016, 17:25 IST
Lionel Messi tax fraud case prosecutor
Lionel Messi was back in Barcelona for the tax fraud trial earlier this week

The hearings in Lionel Messi’s tax fraud case concluded on Friday after both sides presented their case and the prosecutor does not buy the Argentine international’s story of not knowing what papers he signed. The Abogacia del Estado (State Legal Service) prosecutor even went on to say that “even 10-year-old children” knew what to do.

Messi has been accused of defrauding the Spanish government by evading taxes amounting to €4.2 million on his earnings between 2007 and 2009 – largely from the use of his image rights. Both Messi and his father Jorge were charged with using tax havens in Uruguay and Belize while also using shell companies in the United Kingdom and Switzerland. 

The Barcelona forward has been unable to train with Argentina for Copa America in the United States and had to fly back to Spain this week for the four-day trial. The verdict and sentences are set to be announced only next week. 

During the case, Messi pleaded his innocence, claiming that he knew nothing of the charges. The 28-year-old said he was only focused on football and trusted his father to take care of his finances. He also admitted to signing a number of documents without reading them 

“The truth is I knew nothing,” Messi explained in a video that was released. “As my father explained, I was devoted to playing football. I trusted my father and the lawyers he had chosen to run things and I had no idea about anything.”

Even 10-year-olds understand paying taxes: Prosecutor

While Fiscalia, the Spanish revenue service are ready to drop the case, the State Legal Service has not. And Mario Maza, the man handling the case for the State has said Messi’s claims were unacceptable.

“It could be that they are inexperienced with tax matters and the law, and are not able to set up their own companies,” Maza said. “But they are able to understand what paying your taxes means.

“Even 10-year-old children understand that. And Messi would have to be able to understand that without any problem. In no way am I comparing this kid to a mafioso, but this is the same as a capo of a criminal network.”

Lionel Messi Argentina
Messi is now in the United States training with the Argentina squad for Copa America 2016

Maza was of the opinion that when the forward signed away his image rights, he should have been in the loop on what was happening. He believed that Messi should have known exactly what was going on.

“[Messi] told us that he did not read the documents,” Maza continued. “I do not believe that. Especially as they [Messi and his father Jorge] visited a notary.

“Furthermore, they get him to ratify a contract in which he hands over his rights for $50,000. And he does not object at all?

“Even if they were not interested in such matters, surely they would ask some questions? If when the notary begins to read, and Messi does not understand, the notary will explain it for him. He knew more than he let on in court,” he concluded.

Only Messi’s father Jorge should be punished: Fiscalia

Raquel Amado, who represented the Spanish revenue service, said that only Jorge Messi should be found guilty. He claimed that there was no evidence to link Lionel Messi to the tax fraud.

“[Lionel] Messi should be acquitted,” Amado had said when she presented her closing arguments. “The fraud occurred because of a decision of his father. There is no evidence Messi was aware of it.”

However, even if either are sentenced to a 22-month jail term, they are likely to escape any jail time. If one is sentenced to less than two years for a non-violent crime in Spain, they do not serve that time in jail. His teammate Javier Mascherano had also been given a one-year suspended sentence. 

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