Argentinean soccer star Lionel Messi has paid the Spanish government $13 million in back taxes, and he is attempting to settle an alleged $5 million debt that led to tax fraud accusations, according to the newspaper La Vanguardia. The payments of about $13 million (10 million euros) was made to cover his image rights for 2010 and 2011. Messi, who plays for FC Barcelona of the top Spanish league, and his father, Jorge, hope the payment will enable them to avoid a scheduled court appearance Sept. 17 in Gava, Spain. They denied allegations that they illegally funneled money to offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes. In a statement, the firm Juarez Veciana said Messi "scrupulously complies with Spanish legislation. "We declare that our client will pay the amount determined. But we believe that our client has already paid what was legally obliged." According to the report, the state prosecutor alleges Messi and his father used shell companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on revenue from image rights. If Messi is charged and then found guilty, he and his father could face a fine of up to 150 percent of the earnings and two to six years in prison. According to Forbes, Messi is the world's 10th highest-paid athlete. He reportedly has earned $41.3 million this year so far, with $20.3 million coming from his club salary and $21 million in endorsements.
- Lionel Messi