A Spanish judge summons Barcelona’s Argentine footballer Lionel Messi to court over tax fraud allegations.
The 25-year-old four-time World Footballer of the Year and his father, Jorge, have been accused of defrauding the Spanish authorities of more than €4m.
They are suspected of using companies- in Belize and Uruguay- to sell the rights to use Messi’s image, an accusation which they both denied.
If convicted, Messi could face up to six years in prison and a big fine, according to Spain’s Efe news agency.
After the allegation was brought to fore last week, the Argentine international wrote on his Facebook page that: “We have never committed any infringement. We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations.”
The Barcelona forward’s net salary is said to be about €16m per annum, making him one of the world’s most highly-paid sportspeople.
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.
The president of Barcelona FC, Sandro Rossell, has said the club has no doubt that the superstar is innocent of the allegation.