Barcelona forward and four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi will not face a court trial after it was confirmed he was cleared of charges of tax fraud, according to Sky Sports.
— Sky Sports La Liga (@revistadelaliga) October 6, 2015
However, the player’s father, Jorge, is now facing a possible 18-month prison sentence and a £1.5m fine after it was announced that he was in charge of the player’s accounts for a period of wrongdoing – between 2007 and 2009. Messi senior allegedly defrauded the Spanish state of 4.2m euros (£3.1m) in taxes during that time.
The Barcelona forward was initially thought to be in-part responsible and was set to stand trial, though Spain’s public prosecutor has now deemed that the Barcelona star should not have to face charges.
Documents published on Tuesday prove that Jorge was in charge of the accounts at the time and the prosecutor has recommended the punishment of a jail sentence and fines totaling more than two million euros.
The tax evasion was allegedly carried out as the money coming in from the player’s image rights traveled through a series of offshore companies in countries such as Belize and Uruguay, though the player’s lawyers had argued in the past that Messi had “never devoted a minute of his life to reading, studying or analyzing” the contracts, according to El Pais.
Barcelona’s high court ruled in June that the player himself should not have been let off for not knowing what was happening with his own finances, though the latest ruling appears to put the player in the clear. The same cannot be said of his father though, who is now likely to stand trial and could be sent to prison.
Following the initial charge, Messi and his father made a voluntary €5m “corrective payment”, equal to the alleged unpaid tax plus interest, in August 2013. However, the story is set to develop further over the coming weeks and months.