Sydney, June 13 (ANI): Argentine football star Lionel Messi and his father have denied accusations by Spanish authorities of defrauding the state of more than 5.6 million dollars.
The World Player of the Year and his father Jorge had allegedly filed fraudulent tax returns for the years 2006 to 2009, according to a spokesman for the prosecutor's office for tax crimes in Catalonia, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Stating that the accusations had surprised him and his father as they have never committed any offences, the Barcelona forward said that they had learned about the action begun by the Spanish prosecutor through the media.
Messi further added that he and his father has always fulfilled all their tax obligations following the advice of their tax consultants, who, he added, will take care of clarifying this situation.
However, the prosecutor's office said in a statement that income from the sale of Messi's image rights was effectively hidden from the Spanish authorities, adding that the footballer had also avoided paying tax on earnings from selling his image rights to the Aspire Academy in Qatar and from a 2008 trip to Uzbekistan.
The report further said that Messi and his father could face up to four years in jail if found guilty, according to Spanish law.
Messi is one of the world's highest-paid athletes with a salary of just over 20 million US dollars a season, according to Forbes magazine.
On top of his Barcelona wages, he pulls in about 21 million US dollars in endorsements from sponsors including Adidas, PepsiCo and P and G, the report added. (ANI)