The family of Lionel Messi has responded to reports linking the Barcelona star to the so-called ‘Panama Papers’, labelling claims of any wrongdoing as “false and libellous”.
Messi was named in connection with documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, which have been leaked to the international press.
The 11million leaked documents reportedly include details of how the rich and powerful use tax havens to hide their wealth.
Various media outlets have also alleged that the leak highlights evidence of illicit actions on behalf of some individuals, such as money laundering and tax evasion.
The documents were passed to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which then shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Not all the information apparently contained within the Panama Papers relates to illegal activity. Indeed, the use of offshore structures is entirely legal and there are many legitimate reasons for doing so.
Messi and his father, Jorge, are currently facing a separate Spanish investigation into alleged tax fraud, relating to the football star’s image rights, which goes to trial in Spain on May 31. Both father and son have denied those accusations.
In response to the reports that Messi was named in the ‘Panama Papers’ leak, the Argentina captain’s family released a statement to Spanish media on Monday.
In it, they outlined that a Panamanian company set up in Messi’s name had been fully declared to Spanish authorities.
The statement read: “In response to the news released by various media outlets in which Lionel Messi is held responsible for the forming of a company with the aim of ‘putting in place a new web of tax fraud’, the Messi family wishes to make it clear that Lionel Messi has not carried out any of the actions he is accused of, the accusations of having created a new web of tax fraud and, even, money laundering, are false and libellous.
“The company they refer to in Panama is not active and never held any fund or bank account.
“It is a company created by Messi’s former tax advisors as part of their old Enterprise structure and that has already been clarified both before Spanish Hacienda Publica and Spanish Agencia Tributaria.
“Also, it is wrong to link the news with other facts that are still to be solved in Court and have nothing to do with this, such as the charity matches.
“Without a doubt, the facts on which the information is gleaned from is based on mere conjecture and come from biased documentation, which has been released using the Messi surname and his reputation as a demand. The previous actions are especially serious since there is an accusation for crimes as serious as tax fraud and money laundering, causing irreparable damage for Lionel Messi.
“Considering the above, the Messi family has instructed their lawyers from the Cuatrecasas Goncalves Pereira legal firm to analyse the possible filing of legal action against the media outlets that have published this news.”
Barcelona also added their support to the player, posting on their official website: “Following the claims that place Leo Messi at the creation of a corporate structure with the supposed intention of committing tax fraud, FC Barcelona states that:
“1. The club supports the arguments which the Messi family published in a statement today.
“2. Since the very first moment that the ‘Panama Papers’ which accuse Leo Messi were released, FC Barcelona has sent its affection and support to the player and to his whole family. The club makes all of its judicial means, fiscal and administrative, at the family’s disposal in order to make his actions and honour clear in this case.”
Messi is the latest footballing figure to deny wrongdoing in relation to the ‘Panama Papers’, after former UEFA president Michel Platini also released a statement to the French press late on Sunday.
Platini insisted, in quotes published by French newspaper L’Equipe, that his financial affairs are fully transparent.
“Following the information disseminated within the so-called investigation of ‘Panama Papers’, Michel Platini wants to make it known, as he has repeatedly stated to journalists in charge of the investigation, that his entire accounts and assets are known to the Swiss tax authorities, in whose country he is a tax resident since 2007,” Platini was quoted by the paper as saying.
“Moreover, he reserves all his rights for possible misinformation, allegations or defamation which would be published as part of this journalistic work.”
Platini is currently serving a six-year ban from all football-related activity as a result of a FIFA Ethics Committee investigation into an alleged “disloyal” £1.3million payment made to him and signed off by former FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Both Platini and Blatter deny all wrongdoing in that case.
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