Lionel Messi may face jail time and a fine if he is found guilty of defrauding the state of millions of Dollars.
Messi and his father Jorge are alleged to have filed fraudulent tax returns for four years from 2006 to 2009.
The total stands at $5.3 million. The fraud is said to have started before he came of age, which is why his father, who managed his finances, is involved in the case.
“The initiative to commit fraud came from his father,” said tax authorities, according to a Spanish news agency.
A complex network of companies based in Britain, Switzerland, Belize and Uruguay were allegedly used to keep his income out of the sight of tax authorities.
If he is found guilty, the fine for crimes like this is generally six time the amount defrauded, which is roughly $30 million. Messi earns $21.3 million per year in wages, and a similar amount in endorsements, meaning that his fine would be covered by less than what he earns in one year.
There could also be a jail sentence of between two and six years, depending on the outcome of the trial (if it goes to court).
The world’s greatest football player released a statement on his Facebook page saying, “We have just known through the media about the claim filed by the Spanish tax authorities. 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.”
Messi scored a hat-trick on Friday in Argentina’s 4-0 thrashing of Guatemala and seems unfazed by the allegations surrounding him.