Lionel Messi said today at a Spanish court that his father treated his finances and he knew nothing about how his wealth has been managed as he took the stand at his tax evasion trial for the first time
“I was playing football, I had no idea about anything,” the 28-year-old said in Barcelona of the court hearing the case on the third day of the trial. “I trusted my dad and my lawyers,” he added.
The 28-year-old arrived at the court earlier today wearing a suit and a black tie, being cheered and jeered as he emerged from a van with his father Jorge Horacio Messi.
The 2 are accused of using a chain of fake companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes € 4.16 million Messi earned income through the sale of its rights image 2007-09.
Dozens of photographers and onlookers crowded behind metal barriers and a police line guarding the entrance to the courtyard to catch a glimpse of the five-time Golden Ball.
The trial for tax evasion fraud comes at a time of ferment voter anger about steep government cuts to health and social spending, as the government struggles to bring the public deficit of Spain down.
The trial is expected to end tomorrow.
After his court appearance in Barcelona, Messi to fly to the United States where Argentina Copa America champions take on Chile in their first match of the three-week tournament in California on Monday.
The high-profile case began on Tuesday without Messi, as he was recovering in his hometown of Rosario in Argentina a lower back injury he suffered during a friendly against Honduras last week.
Under Spanish law, a defendant is not required to attend the full trial if prosecutors seek a prison sentence of fewer than two years – which is the case here.
Barcelona striker and his defence team have long argued that Messi’s father managed the finances of football without the report to him, and the attacker was not aware of any wrongdoing.
Both Messi and his father, who managed the affairs of his son since he was a child, were charged with three counts of tax evasion charge.
Spanish prosecutors are seeking a sentence of 22 months imprisonment and a half for them if they are convicted, plus fines equivalent to the amount that would have been defrauded.
But such a sentence would probably be suspended as is common in Spain for first offences punishable under two years.
Messi and his father made a voluntary payment of € 5 million – equal to the amount of alleged unpaid taxes plus interest – in August 2013 after a formal investigation, which should mitigate any penalty if they are convicted.