Lionel Messi summoned to testify on alleged tax fraud

Lionel Messi Lionel Messi of Argentina is pictured during a friendly soccer match against Guatemala in the Mateo Flores stadium in Guatemala City. (REUTERS)

Lionel Messi and his father were ordered by a Spanish court to appear for questioning in September as part of an investigation into tax fraud allegations.

A court in the Mediterranean coastal town of Gava near Barcelona accepted a state prosecutor's complaint alleging that Messi and father Jorge defrauded the Spanish tax office of 4 million euros (USD 5.3 million).

The Barcelona and Argentina star and his father will appear before judge Anju Deb Rani in Gava on Sept. 17. That will form part of an investigation to determine whether rounds exist to charge them with tax evasion.

The court said in a statement that the judge's acceptance of the complaint was "a routine step."

"To move forward with the investigation a series of procedural steps will be carried out like taking testimony of the people necessary so as to clarify if a criminal offense has been committed or not," the court said.

If charged and found guilty, Messi and his father could face a fine amounting to 150 percent of the concealed earnings and between two and six years in prison, although an out-of-court deal is another possible outcome.

Messi's father said that the matter was merely a "difference of opinion" and mentioned the possibility that they would "reach an agreement."

"We are very calm because we have never not paid the tax office," Messi's father told Spanish radio station Cope.

"That there is a difference of opinion between them and our financial advisers (say this) is normal because there always are with those who pay large amounts to the tax office. I can assure you that what is paid annually is of two figures followed by six zeros.

"I know that there will be an agreement, but it bothers us that certain news outlets have led a slander campaign and generated expressions of hate. It is very cruel, but we know what to do when this is cleared up."

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