Lionel Messi has denied any knowledge of his alleged attempts to avoid tax payments when he signed contracts related to image rights. The Barcelona star appeared on trial on Thursday 2 June to give his testimony at the Barcelona high court alongside his father facing charges of tax fraud.
It is alleged that Messi and his father Jorge avoided paying over â‚¬4.1m (Â£3m, $4.5m) in tax on the Barcelona stars earnings by using offshore companies in Belize and Uruguay between 2007 and 2009. They already paid the Spanish authorities a voluntary corrective payment of around â‚¬5m after being formally charged in 2013.
Yet, state lawyers are also requesting a prison sentence of 22 months and 15 days for the football player â€“ although the Barcelona star is unlikely to serve any time in jail as Spanish law states that first non-violent offences with prison sentences under two years do not require jail time to be served.
Messi, however, has defended himself in court after claiming that he signed documents without reading them because he trusted his father and the lawyers responsible for managing his finances.
I didnt know anything, Messi told the courtroom, according to Marca. I was focused on playing football and didnt have any idea. I trusted my father and the lawyers. [I] signed where they told me to, I trusted in my father and never thought he could deceive me. These matters never interested me, which is why I was unaware I was breaking the law.
His father also defence his innocence adding: I understand these laws as much as I understand Chinese. I didnt have any knowledge of the laws and simply said yes or no to the proposals presented to me. My intention was to make life easier for my son, to accompany him and to allow him to focus on football. Eventually, we needed legal and accounting help.
The trial will resume on Friday (3 June) for sentencing but a verdict is not expected until next week.