Soccer-Messi tax fraud case should be dropped say lawyers

By Tim Hanlon Dec 16 (Reuters) - A tax fraud case involving Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and his father Jorge should be dropped because of errors in the investigation and court proceedings, their lawyers said on Wednesday. The pair are accused of defrauding the Spanish state of 4.2 million euros ($4.589 million) in tax from 2007 to 2009 and a Spanish court last October ordered that they stand trial. The state attorney has proposed jail terms of up to 22 months if they are found guilty. The stance of the state attorney, which defends the interests of the Spanish state, contrasts with that of Spain's public prosecutor, who says Messi should not have to answer the charges as it was his father who oversaw his finances. "The defence support the view of the public prosecutor who exclude Leo Messi's responsibility in all decisions over his tax statements," the lawyers said in a statement. "The defence also points out the irregularities in the investigation by the prosecution and the evident defects in the proceedings at the court in Gava. "We hold that the court did not investigate correctly the real facts. It only repeated the report made by the prosecution which was very severe in its technical criticism." Revenue was hidden using shell companies in Uruguay, Belize, Switzerland and the United Kingdom to avoid paying tax, according to the prosecutor's office. Messi and his father have already paid five million euros to the tax authorities as a "corrective" measure after they were formally charged in June 2013. ($1 = 0.9158 euros) (Reporting by Tim Hanlon in Barcelona, editing by Clare Fallon)