Lionel's 'Messi' tax woes
Messi and his father were charged with tax evasion by Spanish authorities.
JOHANNESBURG - Four-time FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and his father Jorge have been accused by Spanish authorities of tax fraud.
The two have been charged with tax evasion on income earned from the sale of the player's image rights.
It is alleged the income had been hidden using a web of shell companies in Uruguay, Belize, Switzerland and the UK.
The duo denied wrongdoing after filing incomplete tax returns for the years 2006 to 2009.
In September, Messi made a retribution payment to the Spanish authorities of around $6.8 million.
Messi's father, Jorge, took full responsibility for his son's state of tax affairs, isolating the player from any direct participation.
Jorge has instead pointed the finger at a former agent of the player.
According to the legal report, Messi earned more than $15 million from image rights between 2006 and 2009, but failed to pay the required taxes.
The news caused shock in Spain, where Messi is idolised.
The pair appeared separately in court last week.
The judge will now determine whether or not to dismiss the charges or impose a fine.
Forbes magazine lists Messi as the 10th highest paid sportsman in the world with an annual income of $21 million from endorsements alone.
After scoring 91 goals last season, Messi broke the record held by Gerd Muller.
For this, Barcelona rewarded him with a record contract extension through 2018 which will pay him more than $20 million a year.
In addition, Adidas launched his icon signature line in 2013 which nets the player close to $20 million per annum.
The Barcelona striker has been a prolific figure for both his country and at club level, scoring more goals than any other player.
He has netted a staggering 323 goals in 387 games for Barca and this has made him appear irreplaceable on the field.
Messi has currently been ruled out of play for the next three weeks as he nurses a hamstring injury.