Barcelona star Lionel Messi has been accused of defrauding £3.4 million (N867 million) through false income tax returns in Spain.
The state prosecutor has taken action against the footballer and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi.
According to the Daily Mail, both are accused of three offences against the public purse for allegedly defrauding millions on income tax returns for 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Messi arrived at the Nou Camp as a 13-year-old in 2000, made his first-team debut three years later and has gone on to establish himself as one of football’s best ever players.
He has won six Primera Division titles, three Champions League crowns and two FIFA Club World Cups with the Catalan giants, and in 2012 netted a record 86 goals for club and country.
The complaint, signed by prosecutor Raquel Amado, was submitted for trial at the court in Gava, the upmarket Barcelona suburb where the Argentina forward lives.
A judge must accept the prosecutor’s lawsuit before charges can be brought against Messi and his father.
The footballing star released a statement denying any wrongdoing. ‘We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations, following the advice of our tax consultants, who will take care of clarifying this situation,’ he said.
Reports emerged Wednesday alleging the four-time reigning World Player of the Year and his father, Jorge Horacio, were suspected of filing fraudulent tax returns between 2007 and 2009.
The 25-year-old Argentinian, currently on international duty in South America, swiftly insisted he had done nothing wrong in a statement on his official Facebook page.
It read: ‘We have just known through the media about the claim filed by the Spanish tax authorities. He signed a two-year contract extension with Barcelona in February which keeps him at the club through June 2018 – when he will be 31.
Spain has been cracking down on tax evasion as it fights to repair the country’s public finances amid recession and the collapse of its once-booming real estate sector.
Finance Minister Cristobal Montoro warned footballers in April they should make sure they are ‘comfortable’ with their tax affairs.
Barcelona declined to comment.