herald

Saturday 1 October 2016

Messi and his father to appeal

Lionel Messi. File photo: AP
Lionel Messi. File photo: AP

Barcelona striker Lionel Messi and his father Jorge will appeal against the 21-month prison sentences for tax fraud imposed on them by a Catalan court.

Messi's management company said last night that the pair would take appeals to the supreme court, even though neither man is likely to serve any time in prison.

Under Spanish law, sentences under two years are usually suspended.

A statement from lawyers representing the pair described the sentences as "incorrect."

The long-running case relates to a scheme to avoid paying £3.4m of tax on Lionel Messi's image rights.

The disputed tax payments date back to a period from 2007 to 2009, a time when Argentinian player Messi, now 29, helped to transform Barca into the world's best team.

He has now, however, been fined £1.7m for three counts of tax fraud while his father has been given a £1.3m fine.

Lionel Messi has always denied any knowledge of his tax affairs, saying he concentrated on football, while his father has claimed he left it all up to financial advisers.

In yesterday's statement, lawyers Enrique Bacigalupo and Javier Sanchez-Vera added: "The large majority of the arguments on which the ruling focuses the debate are precisely the ones which we are convinced must lead to absolution, as such, the appeal has a good chance of being successful."

The four-day hearing actually concluded in Barcelona on June 3, shortly before Lionel Messi left to join Argentina's squad for the Copa America.

Barcelona said in a statement on their official website that they considered Messi to be "no way criminally responsible with regards to the facts underlined in this case."

They added: "Barcelona continue to be at the disposal of Leo Messi and his family to support him in whatever action he decides to take."

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