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Messi worlds best football player…. but also a tax fraud?

By Walter Broeckx

Some 10 days ago the Spanish justice department accused Lionel Messi and his father Jorge Horacia of tax fraud.  On September 17, their case will be heard, as was said by a spokesman for justice, Senor Company: “The court has decided today to act on the complaint of the financial arm of the prosecutor’s office in Barcelona. They are officially under suspicion.

Last week it was announced that the Messi’s were under suspicion of having missed out on some taxes for a sum of 4.1M Euro. Peanuts for the average human being like you and me of course. It all had to do with their income on portrait rights between 2007-2009.

Income that if I understand it correct was allegedly sent to fictitious companies in  tax havens such as Belize and Uruguay. The aim was to avoid taxation in Spain. I am not a person who knows how these things work so forgive me if I can’t help you how you could avoid taxes.

In a first reaction Messi denied the allegations. Of course. We all would.

Sandro Rossel, the Barcelona president organised a press conference and said that Barcelona, the club, was in no doubt and was sure that Messi was innocent. He said, “I have spoken with the Messi family and they are serious people and Barcelona is a serious club. One more reason to be sure of the innocence of Messi”.  Yes, serious people don’t evade taxes of course.

Also Joan Laporta, former president of FC Barcelona, stood up for Lionel Messi. “I am convinced that Leo nor his father ever did anything illegal,” said Laporta on radio station Cadena Cope.  “I do not know where the companies were located to which we paid Messi for his portrait rights,” said Laporta, who led Barcelona between 2003 and 2010. “As far as I know they  were all legitimate businesses. Messi and his family had a problem with one of their agencies. Possibly the accusations come from that quarter.” Ah someone has gone talking behind the back one could think?

The Spanish Minister of Sport Jose Ignacio Wert said : “The law applies to everyone”
“His status as a football hero should not be an excuse to cheat with taxes”.  “All we can do now is wait for the investigation. Then it will become clear on what  Messi is accused. Until then he is assumed innocent.

So this was the state of affairs until a few days back. Messi said he didn’t do anything wrong and his club said they did nothing wrong. And we must of course wait for the trial to be sure that they did nothing wrong.

Now let us presume just for a moment that they did do something wrong. It sure paints Messi in another light. The golden boy of football might just be a tax evader. And that for a person who earns every week more money than most of us will ever earn in the rest of our lives. And just imagine the boy just being an cheat.  We just pay our taxes like good citizens and Messi cheats away.  Not a nice image.

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And of course it will also put the club Barcelona in a bad light. Would we really believe they didn’t know anything? Is it normal for a club to send millions of Euros to tax havens in Belize or Uruguay and not really know to whom they are paying the money? Is this the normal procedure in Barcelona? If so, not really a responsible way to act towards the Catalan and Spanish tax payer.

Now you could say steady on Walter. Messi still is innocent. Well that was exactly my thought till I read the following story in the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia.

Because this newspaper said that in the last days Messi has paid ten million Euro to the Spanish tax agency. According to this Barcelona newspaper it was money he paid for the tax years 2010 and 2011. Money he hadn’t paid previously.

According to the newspaper it was an attempt to correct the taxes he had paid for the years 2010 and 2011. And an attempt to stop new investigations for those years.

Now after reading this it really sounded to me that there might have been some wrong doing from Messi and his father. It looks to me as a desperate attempt to repair as much damage as is possible. Why would an innocent person pay 10M euro? If they are so sure of having done nothing wrong, then why pay such an amount of money?

If found guilty Messi and his father could face one to five years in prison and a fine  up to six times the amount owned. I don’t know how the justice department works in Spain and if rich or famous people get lesser sentences and fines than José and Maria Medio. Or Joe Average as he is known in other parts of the world.

Maybe it is time to table a bid for Messi now and lure him away from Spain. Save him from prison in Spain?  Surely this must be the best time ever to try to bring Messi to London to the club he once said he admired for their playing style.

Oh, don’t worry about my last sentences. I don’t really mean it (and anyway there are extradition treaties to worry about too) but as the inventors of gossip didn’t think up that story I now have to do it for them.  It is a big disappointment for me. They are losing the plot I think.

People always compare Messi to Maradona. That other tax fraud. In fact they do follow each others footsteps. Maradona and the hand of god and his tax fraud. And now Messi who also celebrated his goal scored with his hand against Espanyol a few seasons ago as if nothing was wrong at all and now also seemingly being a tax fraud.

Anyway – in case you are interested, in the next article we’ll explain exactly how this particular tax fraud works, and how (it is suggested) players all over the world are exploiting it as a way of illegally avoiding tax, with the assistance of their clubs.

Arsene Wenger remains Arsenal’s most successful manager ever.

24 comments to Messi worlds best football player…. but also a tax fraud?

  • Funnily enough Walter, most extradition treaties are for criminal matters not fraud so, while I am not a lawyer or anything, the dream of bringing Messi to N5 might be worth pursuing as he could avoid jail!!

  • Matt

    I am sure Arsenal and it’s players were upto no good in regards to payment of taxes. Apparently Arsenal were doing a very similar thing (Paying money abroad) and had to pay HMRC £13 million to avoid a court case.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Matt,
    we could have bought Tevez with that 😉

    Good to hear that Arsenal did put it right by paying the taxes. I hope the rest will do the same. And I hope Arsenal has learnt their lesson.

  • Ohrearry

    You act as if Messi and his father are sitting at their desks setting up fraudulent companies and avoiding taxes all day. I highly doubt that Messi and his father even pay attention to tax procedures besides simply signing necessary forms. They have tax advisors that make a living off of this. Maximizing returns, minimizing payments, and the collect commission based on those figures. It is very possible that Messi does indeed owe back taxes, but it is not likely that he intentionally evaded them.

  • Dominic

    We might be able to bring him to N5 but would not be able to play him in any match in Spain. Some Time ago the captain of Linfield, William “Winkie” Murphy went on a stag do to Torremolinos. Unfortunately he forgot that several years earlier he had skipped bail while being held on a charge of passing counterfeit currency. The Spaniards hadn’t forgotten and he was arrested at the airport.

  • dan

    Messi tax fraud? Politicians and Bankers do it all the time!!!

  • mike

    Just a little background history. How did ar5-1 get “promoted” to the 1st division in 1911. The words cheat fraud and illegal come to mind. Your story is complete crap

  • ian

    @ Matt

    I thought that Arsenal were providing some players with loans and then writing them off, hence the player not having to pay tax on the “loan”.

    At the time (as I understand it) it was not illegal to do so however that loophole has now been closed. My understanding was that the loan scheme was used to pay bonuses to allow the club to compete on a like for like basis (take home pay) with other clubs either with more money (Chelsea, Man U) or clubs from countries where the tax rate was lower (Spain etc).

    Maybe there was more?

  • Ade

    This is just a response to Matt from earlier…

    Fraud is a criminal offence, in fact you’re more likely to be extradited for financial matters than crimes such as Murder. It’s so much easier to prove beyond reasonable doubt with financial matters.

  • weedonald

    Matt…..your story sounds transparently spurious so please provide specifics that can be verified….not vacuous and untenable assertions that may not,in fact, have a basis in truth.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Ohrearry,
    You probably are right. But they are final responsible persons for their taxes. I fill in the tax form for some of my children. They sign it and when I would have made a mistake it will be them who will have to suffer the consequences. I think this will be the same in Spain.

    And of course the idea will have been thought out by his tax-advisers or accountants. But I doubt it that they wouldn’t have informed Messi on the idea of how they thought of saving him a few million in taxes. And then the Messi’s will have given their go ahead to do it.

    So it is very unlikely they didn’t know about it.

  • zdzis

    Some important points, though:
    1) As the tax evasion claim pertains to image rights, and not, say, Messi’s salary at Barcelona, it may actually have little to do with the club. As far as I know, Messi has individual star contracts with his sponsors, so the question would then be who’s the blinkered paymaster. Alas.
    2) Tax fraud or no tax fraud, I’m pretty sure Messi doesn’t file his taxes on his own. And if he gives the job to an accountant and then tells him: “Make it so I won’t have to pay too much,” the fault can lie with the accountant rather than Messi.
    3) There have been several big tax evasion cases in sports in the past, but somehow the likes of Steffi Graf continue to be remembered fondly. Very few land in prison themselves.

  • forengaxx

    He is innocent until proven otherwise……and must you always assume the worse of anything that is non-arsenal? At least the spanish authorities are doing something,same cannot be said of England!

  • AL

    I dont think he knowingly had anything to do with this. I also believe the arrangements which resulted in commission of these offences were put in place when he was still a ‘minor’ and his father was managing his finances. Finally, while evading tax is not a nice thing for anyone to be doing, I think if all clubs and players were to be investigated this would be the norm rather than the exception.

  • Hello Mike, how nice to hear from you. You ask “How did ar5-1 get “promoted” to the 1st division in 1911. The words cheat fraud and illegal come to mind.” And you add “Your story is complete crap”

    Well to begin Arsenal did not get promoted in 1911, they were in the first division in 1911 and had been for some time. They were relegated from the first in 1913, and were elected back in 1915. The suggestion that something was amiss in 1915 is a story that has been circulated by supporters of other clubs for some years (although interestingly not in 1915 when the campaign for Arsenal to be elected was headed by the biggest sports weekly of the day “Athletics News”) The Arsenal History site has run the story so many times that we’ve got a bit fed up with running it, until in the end one of the officers of the AISA Arsenal History Society has offered £100 to your favourite charity if you can come up with any proof of anything underhand in ARsenal’s election. I am sure that as you hold such strong views you will be submitting evidence.

    PErhaps a good place to start in your research is http://www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk/archives/5215 which reprints lots of the articles from the newspapers of the day.

  • Matt

    @ Weebellend

    Blah,blah,blah!!

  • Joanna

    Messi does what every gootball player does. All top players in England work with a similar strucuture of image rights companies abroad but the English tax authorities are afraid to take them on. In Spain, the central government in Madrid now goes after Messi, no surprise.

    And calling someone a tax fraud because of this is quite populistic and makes you sound like a butt-hurt Arsenal fan, to be honest. News of the World level. Of course he’s responsable on paper and he’ll have to pay if something was done wrong, but you can’t truly believe he knew anything about what was going on. The scheme was even already set up by his accountants before he turned 18, so he didn’t even sign anything when it started, his dad did.

    So leave the kid alone, and let’s enjoy his football.

  • A. Stewart

    Not sure about tax fraud, but for me he has undoubtedly benefitted from Growth Hormonal treatment which would have been considered doping (iirc) had it been administered when he was technically a professional. However, it’s not as though Barca was overseeing his hormonal treatment purely out of the goodness of their hearts while he was not a pro then, they were doing so in preparation for him becoming one. So as a professional he has still benefitted from it.

    His talent is without doubt, but a Messi a few inches shorter, and unable to be as muscular and strong (strength is a huge part of his game) as he is, and resistent to, or quick recovering from, injuries (it’s remarkable with the kickings he takes and the intensity he plays at that he hardly gets injured and seems to recover fast when he does) may not have been the same player regardless of his undoubted natural talent and skill.

    Sorry, back on topic….

  • Timmy

    Funny how these guys know how to earn huge money and claim to be ignorant of how to manage it

  • Mick

    Does Messi have a dog with a secret bank account?

  • A. Stewart

    @ Timmy, I’d say that’s probably not that uncommon.

    A bit of generalizing here, but often professional athletes may lack a certain degree of formal education (definitely not saying they are not smart)and/or real world experiences as they have been often preparing for / focused on their professional career from they were kids.

    Moreover, along with some/many not having acquired the skills, experience and knowledge to deal with handling money, especially in the context of relevant laws (often across multiple countries and jurisdictions), it seems in some cases they entrust (and pay for) the management of their money to others (sometimes people less than qualified to do so) while they concentrate on their playing careers, and due to incompetence, dishonesty or both, things can go wrong.

    Therefore, to me at least it’s pretty easy to see how in some cases professional sports-people who earn a lot, may be effectively ignorant of managing the money they earn.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Joanna,
    sorry but the allegations are for the years 2007-2009.
    And as Messi is born in 1987 he was 20 years old at that time.
    Not really the innocent kid you paint him. Well in my country you are fully responsible for your actions from the age of 18. And they can bring that age down for some crimes. Tax fraud not being one of them 😉

  • Mick

    @A. Stewart
    You may well be right but on the other hand in some cases they may simply be greedy b******s!

  • A. Stewart

    @ Mick…

    True.