Messi to give tax fraud testimony on June 2

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BARCELONA: Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi will give evidence along with his father for allegedly defrauding Spain’s tax office of over four million euros ($4.5 million) in unpaid taxes on June 2, a court source confirmed on Thursday.

The trial, which is expected to last four days, will start on May 31, but Messi is not obliged to attend the full hearing as Spanish prosecutors are seeking a jail sentence of less than two years.

The five-time World Player of the Year and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, are accused of using a chain of fake companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on 4.16 million euros of Messi’s income earned through the sale of his image rights from 2007-09.

They have been charged with three counts of tax fraud.

Prosecutors are seeking a jail sentence of 22-and-a-half months for Messi and his father if they are found guilty, plus fines equivalent to the amount that was allegedly defrauded.

However, any such sentence would likely be suspended as is common in Spain for first offences carrying a sentence of less than two years.

The trial will disrupt Messi’s preparations for Argentina’s Copa America Centenario campaign in the United States next month.

Fresh from winning a league and Cup double with Barcelona, Messi has travelled to Argentina for a friendly against Honduras on Friday.

He will return to Barcelona to give evidence in the trial before flying to the United States for Argentina’s first match of the Copa America against defending champions Chile in California on June 6.

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