Photo: Lionel Messi
Soccer star Lionel Messi and his family will fully cooperate with the Spanish judiciary in the case against the FC Barcelona striker and his father for tax fraud, defense attorney Cristobal Martell said here Friday.
The lawyer spoke outside the courtroom in Gava, near Barcelona, where Messi spent about 15 minutes answering questions from the judge hearing the tax case.
The four-time world player of the year’s father and agent, Jorge Horacio Messi, also testified.
The Messi family is committed to “total transparency, clarity and collaboration” and has no interest in arguing over “the interpretation of tax regulations,” Martell told the scores of journalists gathered in front of the courthouse.
Messi and his father paid 5 million euros ($6.6 million) to the Spanish treasury for income from endorsements that the four-time world player of the year allegedly failed to report on his 2007, 2008 and 2009 tax returns, the superior court for the Catalonia region said earlier this month.
In mid-June, Lionel Messi paid 10 million euros in addendums to his 2010 and 2011 tax returns, which also were being investigated.
The Argentine star was greeted by a largely friendly crowd when he arrived at the courthouse just before 11:00 a.m. Friday, though a few cries of “thief” could be heard.
Messi, 26, was smiling when he left the building some 90 minutes later and he flashed a thumbs-up to the fans who were there to support him.
Prosecutors say Messi’s father arranged for large sums paid for use of the player’s image to be transferred to shell corporations domiciled in tax havens such as Belize and Uruguay.
The scheme was orchestrated by Jorge Messi, according to prosecutors, who say he entrusted a third party to create an initial shell corporation for tax-evasion purposes when his son was still a minor.
Jorge Horacio Messi has accepted full responsibility for the tax problem, affirming that his son had no part in any effort to hide income.
Lionel Messi “has always dedicated himself solely to playing soccer,” his father said earlier this month in a letter to the judge.