Lionel Messi and his father "will have to testify in court" over allegations they committed a €4M ($5.3M) tax fraud, after a Spanish judge "accepted a court filing from the prosecution and declared the two men formal suspects in the case," according to Tobias Buck of the FINANCIAL TIMES. The Argentina-born striker for FC Barcelona "is alleged to have channelled earnings from the sale of his image rights through tax havens such as Belize and Uruguay." A court statement said that Messi and his father Jorge "will be questioned in a court in Gava, a town close to Barcelona," on Sept. 17. Prosecutors alleged in a court filing published last week that Messi "had committed tax infringements" in '07, '08 and '09. None of the legal steps taken against the two men so far "constitute a formal charge" (FT, 6/20). In London, Graham Keeley reported court documents say prosecutors claimed that Messi’s father "was the brains behind the alleged fraud, which was said to have started before the player was 18" (LONDON TIMES, 6/20).
HOLDING COURT: The BBC reported the "income related to his image rights included contracts with Banco Sabadell, Danone, adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Proctor and Gamble and the Kuwait Food Company." Spain's news agency EFE said that "if he is convicted, Messi could face up to six years in prison and a big fine" (BBC, 6/20). The AP reported court officials said that Messi and his father "will have to appear in person for the session that will be closed to the public." The timing of the court appearance "could coincide with Barcelona's opening game in the Champions League," set to be played on either Sept. 17 or 18. Messi "has denied wrongdoing." He "has received public backing" from Barcelona club President Sandro Rosell and former President Joan Laporta, "who was in charge during the years of the alleged fraud" (AP, 6/20).