Prosecutor Raquel Amado's charges state that Messi and his father had defrauded the tax office out of around four million euros (5.3 million dollars) between 2007 and 2009, in relation to the Barca idol’s image rights.

FIFA World Player Lionel Messi and his father Jorge Horacio are to be charged with tax fraud, the Spanish public prosecutors’ office said Wednesday.

The charges have been filed by prosecutor Raquel Amado in Gava, the seaside resort close to Barcelona where Messi lives.

Amado has charged that Messi and his father for defrauding the tax office out of around four million euros (5.3 million dollars) between 2007 and 2009, in relation to the Barca idol’s image rights.

Amado’s charge alleges that Messi’s father claimed his image rights had been ceded to companies in tax havens like Uruguay and Belize “in order to avoid paying taxes in Spain.” The charge also alleges that these image rights “have practically not been taxed at all. Relevant information has been omitted from their tax declarations with the objective of preventing the tax authorities from knowing about the ceding of these image rights to overseas companies.” Spanish law stipulates a prison term of between two to six years for tax fraud.

Messi’s father said he was surprised at the charges: “I am very surprised at this, but everything will soon be cleared up because we have never failed to fulfil our tax obligations.

“Our lawyers are already working on this issue. We have always paid the right amount.” Jorge Horacio Messi has acted as one of his son’s agents since the diminutive striker made his debut for Barcelona in 2004.

Messi, 25, has guided Barca to three Champions League triumphs plus six Spanish League titles, and has won the FIFA World Player award for the past four years. He recently extended his contract with the Spanish champions to 2018.

Messi has struggled with a strained right hamstring since April, but nonetheless finished as the Spanish League’s top scorer with 46 goals.

This injury prevented him from starting Argentina’s World Cup qualifying away-match with Ecuador on Tuesday, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

He came off the subs’ bench with half an hour remaining and looked fitter than he had in his previous appearances.

After the game in Quito, Messi said. “It is difficult to play here, because of the attitude, but I felt fairly good and finished the game well... We are now closer to qualifying, that is the important thing.” Argentina, captained by Messi, is at the top of the South American qualifying group, three points above second-placed Colombia, and will almost certainly reach the finals in Brazil.

Messi’s last game of a gruelling season will be a friendly away with Guatemala Friday, then he will enjoy a well-deserved five-week holiday.

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