Lionel Messi’s lawyers have said they will settle the outstanding £4m if need be but insists their client is innocent of the tax evasion accusation.
The four-time World Footballer of the Year and his father Jorge Horacio have been summoned to appear before a court in Gava, a Mediterranean coastal town near Barcelona on September 17, which could clash with the La Liga champions’ opening game of next season’s Champions League.
But the 25-year-old’s law firm Juarez Veciana said in a statement that the striker “scrupulously complies with Spanish legislation.”
“We declare that our client will pay the amount determined,” said Messi’s lawyers. “But we believe that our client has already paid what was legally obliged.”
The Argentine international has denied the allegation and has received public backing from Barcelona club president Sandro Rosell and predecessor Joan Laporta.
On Saturday, Jorge Messi told radio station Cope “we are relaxed because we have never missed a payment to the tax authority.”
According to the prosecutor, Messi and his father drew up deals related to his image rights in Britain and Switzerland, ensuring that the income went straight to the tax havens in Belize and Uruguay without any tax being paid.
The income related to his image rights included contracts with FC Barcelona, Banco Sabadell, Danone, Adidas, Procter & Gamble, Kuwait Food Company and Pepsi-Cola.
If charged and found guilty- and barring an out-of-court settlement- Messi and his father could face a fine amounting to 150% of the concealed earnings and between two and six years in prison.
He is ranked 10 among Forbes’ list of sports stars’ incomes this month and has also signed multi-million-dollar endorsements with commercial sponsors around the world.
Messi is due to play a prominent role in the Adidas World Cup marketing campaign.