Barcelona back Messi over fraud case

Barcelona, Oct 9 (IANS) Spanish champions FC Barcelona and its star striker Lionel Messi’s management company criticised the decision taken by a Spanish court to make the Argentine face trial for tax avoidance alongside his father on Friday.

The decision goes against that made by the Barcelona Public Prosecutor two days earlier in which the prosecutors office considered that Messi had no knowledge of a possible tax fraud of 4.1 million euros ($4.4 million) committed by his father on his earnings through image rights in the years 2007 (when Messi was just 20) until 2009, reports Xinhua.

In citing Messi to trial and a possible sentence of 22 months in prison, the court assumes he has joint responsibility along with his father.

In a three-point statement on Friday, Barcelona “expresses its surprise at the difference in criteria between the Public Prosecutors, which on September 25 decided not to accuse Lionel Messi of tax fraud, and the verdict expressed today by the State Attorney, which states the complete opposite.”

The club insisted it would give Messi their full support while also hinting that it believes the decision to take their striker to trial is part of a series of actions aimed at damaging the image of what is a high-profile Catalan institution.

“FC Barcelona decries the accumulation of totally inadmissible and external decisions that have been going on for some time, and that have nothing to do with strictly sporting affairs. They are damaging to the good operations of the club, its stability and also that of the athletes that form part of it,” says the club on its official website on Friday.

Messi Management Services, which looks after Messi’s interests also highlighted the difference in criteria between the judge and prosecutor.

“The Public Prosecution Office did not accuse the Argentine of any tax crime, but rather extensively explained the reasons why he should not be charged… The State Legal Service is contradicting the Public Prosecution Office’s request and judgement,” says the the statement, adding Messi will prove his innocence.

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