Messi, father to appear in court on tax fraud charges

SPAIN: Lionel Messi and his father Jorge have been ordered to appear in court on charges of defrauding the Spanish tax authorities of more than 4 million euros (£2.9 million).

Spain's public prosecutor has recommended a jail sentence totalling 18 months and fines of more than 2 million euros for Jorge Messi for allegedly defrauding the state of 4.2 million euros for the years 2007-2009.

Although the prosecutor has argued Lionel Messi should not have to answer the charges as his father oversaw his finances, a court document published on Thursday showed the judge in the case had ruled he must still appear as a defendant.

The hearings will take place at a court in Vilanova i la Geltru near Barcelona, the document said.

The court had previously ruled that Messi could have known about and approved the creation of a web of shell companies that were allegedly used to evade taxes on income from image rights.

Revenue had been hidden using companies in Uruguay, Belize, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, according to the prosecutor's office.

Messi and his father paid 5 million euros to the tax authorities as a "corrective payment" after they were formally charged in June 2013.

Lionel Messi has been resident in Barcelona since 2000 and gained Spanish citizenship in 2005.

He is 10th on Forbes Magazine's list of the world's highest-earning athletes over the past decade with income of $350 million.