The trial of Argentina star Lionel Messi in tax fraud charges commenced Tuesday in Spain in his absence just days before Argentina’s first match in the Copa America tournament against Chile.
Messi 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.
The authorities allege that the two used tax havens in Belize and Uruguay to conceal earnings from image rights. The Spanish tax agency is demanding heavy fines and prison sentences.
They deny any wrongdoing. The trial is expected to last for three days, with Messi appearing in court on Thursday. The income related to Messi’s image rights, including contracts with Banco Sabadell, Danone, Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Procter and Gamble, and the Kuwait Food Company.