Image: Football Soccer – Barcelona training – Champions League – Joan Gamper training camp – Barcelona, Spain – 4/4/16. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez (not pictured) arrive for a training session. REUTERS/Albert Gea
By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona forward Lionel Messi’s family have denied Spanish media reports following the leak of the ‘Panama papers’ that he was involved in a tax evasion scheme.
Governmen’s across the world began investigating possible financial wrongdoing by the rich and powerful on Monday after a leak of four decades of documen’s from a Panamanian law firm that’specialised in setting up offshore companies.
The so-called ‘Panama papers’ revealed the financial arrangemen’s of global political and public figures.
While holding money in offshore companies is not illegal, Messi, 28, was on Sunday accused by online Spanish newspaper El Confidencial of creating a company with the aim of evading tax.
Reuters could not independently confirm this.
His family on Monday issued a statement denying the allegations.
“In light of stories released by different media outlets which attribute Lionel Messi to the creation of a company designed to ‘set up a new web of fiscal fraud’, the Messi family wishes to make it clear Lionel Messi has not carried out any of the acts he has been accused of and accusations he has designed a new web of fiscal fraud and created a money laundering network are false and damaging,” the family said in a statement.
“The Messi family has instructed its lawyers to analyse opening legal proceedings against the media outlets that have reproduced this story.”
Reuters could not immediately reach Messi’s lawyers Cuartrecasas Goncalves Pereira.
His club have given Messi’s family their backing.
“Barcelona wishes to express the club trusts the argumen’s the Messi family have made public and that from the moment the documen’s linking Leo Messi with ‘the Panama papers’ were made public, Barcelona have shown their support and solidarity to the player and all his family,” the European champions said in a statement.
“The club has put all its judicial, fiscal and administrative means at the disposition of the family should they need to clarify their position and repute in this case,” the statement added.
A tax fraud case against Messi is to be heard in a Barcelona court between May 31 and June 3 after the World Player of the Year and his father Jorge were accused by the tax office (Hacienda) in 2013 of defrauding the Spanish state of 4.2 million euros ($4.5 million) from 2007-09.
Revenue was hidden using shell companies in Uruguay, Belize, Switzerland and the United Kingdom to avoid paying tax, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Reuters was unable to determine if or how this case relates to the details provided in the Panama papers.
Last October, a Spanish court ordered that Messi and his father stand trial. The state attorney has proposed jail terms of up to 22 months if they are found guilty.
Messi and his father, who has denied the accusations, paid five million euros to the tax authorities as a “corrective” measure after being formally charged in June 2013.
Messi is preparing to play for Barca in Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final, first leg at home to Atletico Madrid.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez and Ken Ferris)
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