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Messi stays away as tax fraud trial begins in Barcelona

AFP
Published : Jun 1, 2016, 6:24 am IST
Updated : Jun 1, 2016, 6:24 am IST

Leo and dad accused of using shell companies to avoid paying taxes

 Lionel Messi (Photo: )
  Lionel Messi (Photo: )

Leo and dad accused of using shell companies to avoid paying taxes

The trial of Argentina star Lionel Messi on tax fraud charges opened on Tuesday in Spain in his absence just days before Argentina’s first match in the Copa America against Chile.

Messi, 28, and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, are accused of using a chain of fake companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on 4.16 million euros ($4.7 million) of Messi’s income earned through the sale of his image rights from 2007-09.

They have been charged with three counts of tax fraud. The Barcelona court hearing the case adjourned the trial at around noon after considering preliminary legal questions because of the absence of witnesses, including Messi’s mother Celia Cuccitini. The trial will resume on Wednesday with testimony from the witnesses and experts.

Messi had planned to be in Barcelona for the start of the trial but a lower back injury he suffered during a friendly against Honduras last week prevented him from doing so, defence lawyer Javier Sanchez-Vera said.

The Argentina captain was resting in his hometown of Rosario, located 300 kilometres (185 miles) north of Buenos Aires on Monday. Messi and his father are due to take the stand on Thursday on the last day of the trial.

Under Spanish law, a defendant is not obliged to attend the full trial if prosecutors seek a jail sentence of less than two years. Spanish prosecutors are seeking a jail sentence of 22-and-a-half months for Messi and his father.

Location: Spain, Katalonia, Barcelona