Lionel Messi and father under investigation by Spanish tax authorities
Barcelona star Messi denies all allegations of wrongdoing
Striker played final 30 minutes of Argentina's 1-1 draw with Ecuador
Javier Mascherano sent off for clash with medical cart driver
Soccer star Lionel Messi has denied allegations of wrongdoing after being accused of defrauding the Spanish authorities of over $5 million.
According to court papers seen by CNN, prosecutors say the Barcelona player and his father Jorge Horacio are suspected of filing fraudulent tax returns between 2006-2009.
The four-time World Player of the Year, who is away on international duty with Argentina, took to Facebook Wednesday to offer a firm rebuttal of the accusation.
“We have just known through the media about the claim filed by the Spanish tax authorities,” read a statement in Spanish and English.
“We are surprised about the news, because we have never committed any infringement.
“We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations, following the advice of our tax consultants, who will take care of clarifying this situation.”
According to the papers filed by the prosecutor, Raquel Amado in Gava, the seaside resort close to Barcelona where Messi lives, it is alleged that they tried to avoid paying taxes in Spain by selling the player’s image rights through overseas companies.
Soccer star Lionel Messi must appear in court on September 17 to face possible charges of tax fraud, prosecutors in Spain said Thursday.
He has a yearly salary from Barcelona of just over $20 million plus around $21 million in endorsements from several lucrative sponsors including Adidas and PepsiCo, putting him 10th on Forbes’ list.
Messi joined Barcelona as a 13-year-old in 2000, and has won six Primera Liga titles, three European Champions League crowns. Last year he scored an unprecedented 86 goals for club and country.
Barcelona refused to comment on the story when asked by CNN.
Meanwhile, Messi played just 30 minutes of Argentina’s World Cup qualifying tie against Ecuador in Quito on Tuesday, which ended in a 1-1 draw..
Argentina finished the game with 10 men after captain Javier Mascherano kicked out at the driver of the medical cart in an apparent response to being driven too quickly.
The 29-year-old was being carried from the field with just four minutes remaining before the clash, which led to referee Enrique Caceres showing him a red card.
The Barcelona player later apologized on Twitter, saying: “I really apologize for the reaction I had, nothing justifies this.”
Argentina leads the South American qualifying section on 26 points, three ahead of Colombia and five clear of Ecuador.
The country’s domestic league has been thrown into turmoil after a fan died before a match on Monday, being reportedly shot by a police officer after fighting broke out.
That incident in La Plata, which led to the match between Lanus and Estudiantes being suspended at halftime, came just days after another league game was called off due to fan violence.
The Argentine Football Association has responded by ruling that away fans cannot attend any of the next two rounds of matches, as the season comes to a close.