Lionel Messi, the highest paid footballer in the world, is going on trial in Barcelona today on charges of defrauding Spain of €4.1 million (£3 million; $4.6 million) in unpaid taxes, according to the Guardian.
The FC Barcelona striker and his father Jorge Horacio Messi, who manages his financial affairs, are alleged to have used shell companies in the tax havens of Belize and Uruguay to hide €10.1 million (£7.7 million; $11.3 million) earned in image rights from 2007 to 2009, a charge they deny.
Lionel Messi’s name appeared in the Panama Papers, according to Forbes. He and his father face three counts of tax fraud, charges which could result in 22-and-a half months of jail if they are found guilty.
While the case will focus on the alleged activities of Jorge Horacio Messi, the Guardian says authorities believe Lionel Messi knew enough about his father’s activity to be culpable too. Lionel Messi is expected to give testimony in court on Thursday in a trial that should last three days.
Similar charges were made against Messi over two years ago but were dropped when not enough evidence of his involvement was found.
He told a judge at the time: “I sign contracts but I never look at them. I don’t know what I’m signing. I trust my father who takes care of these things. I do what he tells me to do. I only look at the summary at the end of the year to see what I’ve made.”
Messi earned over €74 million (£56 million; $82 million) last year, half of which was from endorsement deals. He is probably the best football player in the world, and has won the Fifa Ballon d’Or five times.
FC Barcelona is the third most valuable football club in the world according to accountancy firm KPMG, which says it is worth €2.75 billion (£2.1 billion; $3.1 billion)