FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi will after all have to stand trial on three cases of tax fraud, just two days after the Barcelona Public Prosecutor’s office said it would not be pursuing charges against the footballer.
The decision taken by the Public Prosecutor’s office said that Messi was not aware of the possible fraud of 4.1 million euros ($4.5 million) committed by his father Jorge Messi in the player’s tax returns between 2007 — when Messi was just 20 years old — and 2009, reports Xinhua.
The prosecutor based his decision on the fact that Messi’s affairs had been handled by his father, who “had control of tax obligations” and that “it is beyond credit to believe that this lack of knowledge was intentionally designed with the aim of defrauding the treasury”.
However, the court has now ruled that Messi will have to sit alongside his father in the case and could face a prison term of 22 months. It has based its decision on the opinion that “there are elements which allow us to affirm that in the actions… there are rational indication of criminality in respect of both of the accused”.
Messi is currently recovering from a knee injury which will keep him out of action until mid-November and whatever the outcome of his hearing, he is unlikely to go to jail given that in Spain first offenders are hardly ever sent to prison for a sentence of two years or under.