Lionel Messi truly is a megastar, but that’s not such a good thing in the case of the Panama Papers.
The soccer superstar is the most high-profile athlete to appear in the Panama Papers — a massive leak of documents held by Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca, in which financial dealings of some of the world’s richest and powerful people are detailed — according to The Mirror.
“Documents reproduced by Madrid-based daily El Confidencial show both the signatures of Messi and his father in acquiring the dormant Mega Star Enterprises, via a Uruguayan buffer company, just one day after being indicted by Spanish fiscal authorities (in 2012) over a separate case worth an alleged €4million in unpaid taxes,” The Mirror reports.
On the surface, the Messis have done nothing illegal, but El Confidencial accuses them of using Mega Star Enterprises as part of a “tax fraud network” through which he avoided paying taxes in Spain on image-rights deals, according to The Independent.
A Spanish court will try the Messis on tax-evasion charges, starting on May 31. Mega Star Enterprises isn’t one of the companies Spanish authorities investigated in that indictment.
The Messi family released a statement Monday in which they deny the charges.
“In response to the news released by various media outlets in which Lionel Messi is held responsible for the forming of a company with the aim of ‘putting in place a new web of tax fraud’, the Messi family wishes to make it clear that Lionel Messi has not carried out any of the actions he is accused of, the accusations of having ‘created a new web of tax fraud’ and, even, money laundering, are false and libellous,” the statement read, according to The Mirror.
“The Panamian company referred to in the reports is a completely inactive company, which never held open accounts nor funds and which comes from the former company structure put in place by Messi’s previous financial advisers, the fiscal consequences of which have already been normalized, with all the income that comes from exploitation of his image rights, prior to and after the procedure carried out in the courts, having been declared before the Spanish Treasury.”
FC Barcelona is offering Messi its full backing, according to The BBC’s sports editor.
Barcelona sends its “affection & support” to Lionel Messi & his family over Panama Papers & tax fraud allegations pic.twitter.com/dvu2p0Djk1
— Dan Roan (@danroan) April 4, 2016
The Messis reportedly are considering taking legal action against El Confidencial.
Stay tuned for more on this.
Thumbnail photo via Manu Fernandez/Associated Press