Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, unarguably the best soccer player in the world today, was in court on Friday due to charges of tax evasion. Messi appeared in court with his father — they testified separately — as the two are accused of hiding over $5.39 million in endorsement earnings between 2006 and 2009.
According to the prosecution, Messi and his father propped up shell companies in places like Uruguay, Switzerland, Belize, and the United Kingdom in order to avoid Spanish taxes. The two have denied any wrongdoing, claiming that Messi’s former agent was the orchestrating the tax-evasion scheme behind their backs. As they said: “We have always fulfilled our tax obligations following the advice of our tax consultants who will take care of clarifying this situation” (The Guardian).
Though they maintain their innocence, the two men already made a “corrective payment” earlier in the year to try and appease the Spanish authorities.
Messi has won four FIFA Ballon d’Or awards and holds multiple world records. He is one of the richest athletes in the world, earning an estimated $19 million annually from endorsements alone.