Lionel Messi and three other players from Barcelona gave testimony to the Spanish Civil Guard as part of an investigation into alleged money laundering scheme for a Colombian drug trafficking business that organised concerts and charity matches, including the recent “Messi and Friends” events.
Spanish police said on Monday that four Barcelona players -- Messi, Javier Mascherano, Daniel Alves and Jose Manuel Pinto -- testified but are not accused of any wrongdoing and authorities ruled out their involvement in the case. Four people, who were not identified, have been arrested with 12 more accused.
The case, which a Madrid judge has been investigating since 2012, has focused on an unidentified Colombian event organizer. Said company has been accused of money laundering via major events held in Spain.
The Colombian company is said to have also organized charity events such as "Messi and Friends" matches and "Battle of the stars," some of which were held in South America and the United States. The Spanish courts are investigating whether there was money laundering at these events, the Civil Guard said via press release Monday.
The Spanish justice department has frozen $689,114 in assets of the Colombian company under questioning.
Lionel's father, Jorge Messi, told El Mundo Deportivo in Madrid, that his son was not involved in any wrongdoing. Jorge Messi was also cleared Monday of any implication in the investigation.
Mundo Deportivo said these exhibition games were organised not by the player's foundation, but by a company called Player Imagen, who delegate responsibility for each match to promoters on the ground.
Messi's Los Angeles exhibition match this past summer was cancelled at the last minute and Messi apologised to fans via his Facebook page and expressed his disappointment with the event organisers.
Messi father and son appeared in court last September to answer charges they had evaded over four million euros in taxes between 2007 and 2009 by routing 'image rights' income through offshore tax havens. That case appears to have been resolved, with five million euros having been to paid to cover unpaid taxes plus ‘reparations’, and the judge accepting that Messi knew little about how his own tax affairs were managed.
According to El Mundo, it is relatively common practice for a large number of fake tickets to be sold for some sports games and rock concerts -- allowing for ‘black’ money to be brought into legal circulation.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.