Spanish Civil Guard Denies Investigating Lionel Messi's Father Following El Mundo Report
After Spanish daily El Mundo reported that Lionel Messi and his father, Jorge, were "involved in an investigation related to laundering money from drug related crimes," other "top Spanish sources" reported that the Spanish Civil Guard (UCO) and the Colombian entity in charge of the investigation have "cleared Jorge and Lionel Messi from any involvement" and "officially closed the investigation," according to beIN SPORT. The case involved a Colombia-based network that "organized sports events and concerts in both America and Europe to launder drug trafficking money." Some of the games under review were the "Messi & Friends" series of friendlies that were held over the past two summers, "some of which were in Bogota and Medellin, Colombia." For "that reason, the Spanish authorities called on Lionel Messi, Jose Pinto, Dani Alves and Javier Mascherano to testify as to what they knew of the actual organization of the event." But the OCU stated that the "Barcelona players and Jorge Messi were only called in as sources of information to further the investigation, but that they weren't the subject of the investigation themselves." The judge "in charge of the case in Madrid, Eduardo Lopez Palop, has cleared Jorge Messi and his son as he agrees they all participated without knowledge of any wrong doing" (beIN SPORT, 12/16). OLE reported Spain's Interior Ministry "denied the rumors." Messi's family is expected to "take legal action against El Mundo." It is "not the first time that Messi's name has been attacked by Spanish media." It happened previously "on the subject of taxes." This time, "the situation was more harsh -- implication in a network of money laundering and drug trafficking" (OLE, 12/16).
MESSIS RESPOND: SPORT reported the Messi family "has made public a statement." The statement said, "Leo Messi Management wishes to clarify the information published in El Mundo, which references Jorge Messi and the 'Messi & Friends' games from this year and last year. As the Interior Ministry and the UCO have made clear, Jorge Messi was never involved in this case. Nor was he investigated, called to testify or even accused" (SPORT, 12/16).
EL MUNDO REPORT: In Madrid, Herraiz & Alsedo reported that the "UCO has investigated since months ago a case of money laundering and drug trafficking, and at the epicenter of the movements is a name that stands out as a key piece of the puzzle: Jorge Messi." The case "has a look that makes it probable that it will end up in Spain's National Court, as it has international ramifications." The case began "with the discovery that events like sporting events and rock concerts were possibly being used by drug traffickers to launder enormous sums of money." There are "not specific figures, but we would be talking about millions of euros." The "suspected role of Jorge Messi would be one of a contact between the gangs and event organizers, a fundamental part of the framework." Government agents "suspect that Jorge Messi served as an intermediary to make his son and other athletes participate in the charity matches in exchange for a percentage of the money." The investigators believe that "the commission for Jorge Messi is between 10 and 20 percent of the laundered money, but they added that the investigation, which is very complex, is in its initial phase" (EL MUNDO, 12/16).