Lionel Messi’s management company has denied that his father Jorge has anything to do with an ongoing investigation into the possible laundering of drug money through recent 'Messi & Friends' friendlies.
El Mundo reported on Monday morning that Guardia Civil investigators were looking into whether these exhibition games, played in summer 2012 and 2013, were used by Colombian drug traders to launder money.
It was widely reported elsewhere in the Spanish media that Messi senior was not a target of the investigation, which focuses on the use of 'anonymous donations' at exhibition games and 'charity' rock concerts to bring back into circulation the proceeds of drug trafficking.
Leo Messi Management released a statement on Monday evening saying it had been made clear that Jorge was not involved at all in this legal process.
"Leo Messi Management [LMM] wish to clear up the information published in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo today Monday December 16 2013, which made reference to Jorge Messi and the ‘Messi & Friends’ games played this year and last year," the statement said. "As sources from the Interior Ministry and the Guardia Civil have told news agencies, Jorge Messi was never connected to the case. He has not been investigated, nor called to testify, nor much less been charged."
The Barcelona player and three clubmates [Javier Mascherano, Jose Pinto and Daniel Alves] gave testimony on Nov. 29 to investigators, but this was reportedly only to explain how players were contracted for the games, not because they are suspected of any involvement in illegal activity.
Messi & Friends games were played in 2013 in Medellin [Colombia], Lima [Peru], Chicago and Los Angeles. In summer 2012 a similar schedule saw matches in Bogota [Colombia], Cancun [Mexico] and Miami.
The LMM statement went on to say that the 2013 games had been organised by an [unnamed] third-party company, and that neither Lionel nor Jorge Messi benefitted from them financially.
"The management of all the Messi & Friends games has always been identical, until the last one, played last summer," it said. "Neither LMM, nor the Leo Messi Foundation, organised these games -- all the organising was managed by a third-party. In the same way, neither LMM nor the foundation received any income from the playing of these same games.
"The selection of the local promoter, the organising of the Messi & Friends tour, was done without the intervention or involvement of LMM, nor any member of the Messi family. This promoter was responsible for contacting the players and organising the games… the only objective of the company overseen by Jorge Messi is to guarantee a donation for a local NGO selected jointly by the Leo Messi Foundation and UNICEF. In the case of the game played in Colombia, 100,000 dollars was donated."
The 'Messi & Friends' report is the latest in a series of both legal and media investigations in Madrid involving Barcelona players or directors, including close looks at the 74 million euro transfer of Neymar from Santos last summer.
Blaugrana board spokesperson Toni Freixa said he was happy to have learned that the El Mundo report had been denied by the authorities, while admitting 'concern' that a concerted effort was being made to undermine the Catalan club.
"We are pleased that the Ministry of Interior has immediately denied the information published by a news outlet," Freixa said. "The information published by the outlet is untrue. We want to express our concern because lately there has been an effort to undermine the reputation of our players and our institutions. The board, just as it has done in similar situations, will act strongly. We want to send a message that everything is not fair game and that we are aware of what is going on."