BARCA STAND BY MESSI

Club pledge sup­port fol­low­ing his con­vic­tion for tax fraud

New Straits Times - - Sport -

BARCELONA have ex­pressed their sup­port for Ar­gen­tine striker Lionel Messi and his fa­ther af­ter the Span­ish Supreme Court up­held their prison sen­tences over tax fraud charges, although nei­ther are ex­pected to go to jail.

Five-time World Player of the Year win­ner Messi, who has been at Barcelona since the age of 13, was handed a 21-month prison sen­tence and fined €2 mil­lion (RM9.4 mil­lion) for three counts of tax fraud be­tween 2007 and 2009.

“The club re­it­er­ates, once again, its full sup­port for Leo Messi, his fa­ther Jorge Messi, and his fam­ily,” a state­ment on the club’s of­fi­cial web­site read. (www.fcbarcelona.com)

“FC Barcelona pres­i­dent Josep Maria Bar­tomeu con­tacted the player’s fam­ily to com­mu­ni­cate this sup­port.

“The fam­ily was very grate­ful, not only for to­day’s ges­ture, but also for the sup­port the player and his fam­ily have re­ceived from the club through­out this process. The club will con­tinue to stand with Leo Messi, his fa­ther, and his fam­ily.”

A court state­ment said Messi “un­equiv­o­cally un­der­stood his obli­ga­tion to pay tax on in­come ob­tained from ex­ploit­ing his im­age rights...there­fore it is not log­i­cal that he should ig­nore his duty to pay tax on them.”

The Supreme Court’s rul­ing brings an end to a case which be­gan in 2013.

Messi, 29, and his fa­ther de­frauded the Span­ish tax of­fice of €4.1 mil­lion be­tween 2007 and 2009 by us­ing a web of shell com­pa­nies based in Belize, Switzer­land and Uruguay to evade taxes on in­come from the player’s im­age rights.

Messi, who has won eight La Liga ti­tles, four King’s Cups and four Cham­pi­ons League crowns with Barcelona, fin­ished top scorer in Spain this season with 37 league goals.

He is set to play in the King’s Cup fi­nal in Madrid to­mor­row, the last game of the do­mes­tic season.

Messi is Barcelona’s all-time top scorer and their high­est paid player. He is ex­pected to sign a new con­tract with the Cata­lan club later this sum­mer, with his cur­rent deal ex­pir­ing in June 2018. Reuters

AFP PIC

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi is not ex­pected to go to jail de­pite be­ing handed a 21-month prison sen­tence.

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