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Messi father: Tax claims 'a mistake'

Lionel Messi's father has said claims that the Barcelona star has defrauded the Spanish state of over €4 million in taxes are a "mistake".

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On Wednesday, the Catalan media reported that tax authorities in Barcelona were to bring a case against Messi and his father over unpaid taxes in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

The prosecutor told El Periodico front companies in tax havens had been used to hide image rights payments from the authorities.

Jorge Messi, named in the claim because his son was a minor in 2007, told AS he did not understand how such a case could be brought, but said he was sure that legal and financial experts would sort matters out.

"This is all a mistake," he said. "It should have been spoken about with the accountants and legal people, who will clear it up.

"I have already spoken with our lawyers so that they resolve this, but I do not understand anything that is happening. I do not look after these matters - I am a resident of Argentina."

He added: "I have not yet spoken with Leo. I do not need to, as this is a mistake. Why would I go and scare him?"

Under Spanish law tax prosecutors build a case before taking it to a judge, who then decides whether charges should be brought.

Messi's Catalan legal advisors, Juarez Veneciana, said on Wednesday they had not yet received any notice of any pending problem, having only heard reports.

"We want to express our surprise at the news published in the media, given that neither our client nor ourselves have received any notification from the tax authorities in relation to what has been published,' a spokesperson told Marca.

"[Lionel Messi] has always followed punctually his tax obligations, and will continue to do so in future.

"As his legal and tax advisors, we will take all the appropriate legal actions against the claim from the tax authorities, and we trust fully in justice."

In recent years, sportspeople including Luis Figo, Davor Suker, Lass Diarra, Samuel Eto'o, Rafael Nadal and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario have had their tax situations investigated. Figo, Suker and Sanchez Vicario were ordered to make payments including penalties.

El Pais said the Eto'o case, from 2006-09, was most similar to the alleged Messi situation because it involved image rights revenues being paid via companies outside Spain during his time at Barcelona.

The Cameroon international, now at Anzhi Makhachkala, blamed his former agent for badly advising him. That case has yet to be ruled upon.

Tax fraud carries a potential six-year prison sentence.