x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Football round-up: Barcelona's Lionel Messi summoned over Spain tax fraud

Lionel Messi's court scheduled appearance in September could conflict with Barcelona's opening game in the Champions League while Chelsea defender David Luiz needs surgery.

A Spanish judge has named Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and his father as suspects in a tax fraud probe and summoned them to court. Luis Gene / AFP
A Spanish judge has named Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and his father as suspects in a tax fraud probe and summoned them to court. Luis Gene / AFP

Lionel Messi and his father were ordered by a Spanish court on Thursday to appear for questioning in September as part of an investigation into tax fraud allegations.

A court in the Mediterranean coastal town of Gava near Barcelona accepted a state prosecutor's complaint alleging that Messi and father Jorge defrauded the Spanish tax office of €4 million euros (Dh19.45m).

The Barcelona and Argentina star and his father will appear before judge Anju Deb Rani in Gava on September 17. That will form part of an investigation to determine whether there exist grounds to charge them with tax evasion.

If charged and found guilty, Messi and his father could face a fine amounting to 150 per cent of the concealed earnings and two to six years in prison, although an out-of-court deal is another possible outcome.

Court officials said that both Messi and his father will have to appear in person for the session that will be closed to the public.

The timing of the court appearance could coincide with Barcelona's opening game in the Champions League, set to be played either on September 17 or 18.

The court accepted the complaint lodged by prosecutor Raquel Amada on June 12 accusing the pair of not paying the correct taxes from revenue earned from image rights on Messi's income tax returns from the years 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Messi has denied wrongdoing. He has received public backing from Barcelona club president Sandro Rosell and former president Joan Laporta, who was in charge during the years of the alleged fraud.

Messi, 25, is rated by Forbes as the world's 10th highest-paid athlete, reportedly earned US$41.3m (Dh151.6m) to June this year; with $20.3m coming from his club salary and $21m in endorsements.

Chelsea defender David Luiz requires surgery after suffering a broken nose playing for Brazil.

Luiz, 26, incurred the injury in a collision with team-mate Thiago Silva during the Selecao's Confederations Cup defeat of Mexico.

Luiz, who struggled to stem the flow of blood following the blow, will go under the knife following the tournament, he said.

"Yes, my nose is broken, but that's part of the game," Luiz said in quotes published on chelseafc.com.

"Now I'll have to wait until the end of the competition and undergo surgery to fix it."

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE