Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi and his father Jorge will appear in court today, to defend themselves against charges of tax evasion.
They are accused of hiding earnings from Messi’s image rights to the value of €4.2 million in secret banks accounts in Uruguay and Belize.
Prosecutors claim that the crimes took place between 2007 and 2009, with the intention of avoiding paying the Spanish tax authorities.
Both Jorge and Lionel- who earns a €16 million per year salary from Barcelona, before image rights and endorsements- deny the charge.
They say that Messi’s financial arrangements at the time in question were taken care of by his former agent, who made the secret deposits without their knowledge.
Messi is expected to escape serious punishment, but the case against him has tarnished his reputation.
According to The Guardian “it is an increasingly common practice for leading footballers to set up image rights companies in low-tax countries, through which they are paid their additional sponsorship salaries, thus avoiding the duty they might pay at home.”
But Messi and his father vehemently deny that they ever intended to steal from the taxman.
"We have always fulfilled our tax obligations following the advice of our tax consultants who will take care of clarifying this situation," they insist.