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Messi In Court To Face Tax Fraud Trial

Sky News: Football superstar Lionel Messi is at a Spanish court to give evidence in his tax fraud trial.

The Argentina and Barcelona player, together with his father Jorge, who manages his financial affairs, are accused of defrauding Spain of more than £3m, (€4.1m) between 2007 and 2009.

It is alleged that the two used tax havens in Uruguay and Belize to hide earnings from image rights.

Both men deny the three charges they face.

The Spanish tax agency is demanding heavy fines and prison sentences of up to two years.

Messi’s lawyers have said that the player had never examined a series of contracts which dealt with the income from image rights with companies including adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Danone, Procter and Gamble, Banco Sabadell and the Kuwait Food Company.

“The player wasn’t involved in any of the decisions,” said Angel Juarez, a partner at the law office that represented Messi at the time. “He would show up only to sign the documents.”

But the Barcelona high court has already ruled that the footballer should not be granted immunity for not knowing what was happening with his finances.

Messi – who has been voted World Player of the Year five times, and is worth an estimated £240m – did make a voluntary payment of £3.8m in August 2013 to cover unpaid tax and interest.

The trial, which began on Tuesday, is expected to end this week, although a verdict is not expected until next week.

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