Lionel Messi's Back Taxes Payment Provokes Questions About Previous Statement

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVJune 25, 2013

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 05:  Substitute Lionel Messi of Barcelona looks on from the bench during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Betis Balompie at Camp Nou on May 5, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Barcelona star Lionel Messi seems to be taking precautions necessary to avoid further trouble in the allegations of his tax evasion. But without any explanation as of yet, there remain more questions than answers on the surprising investigation.

Per Alex Duff of Bloomberg, Messi coughed up a hefty sum to fix the issue.

Lionel Messi, the four-time world soccer player of the year who’s being investigated for alleged tax evasion, paid 10 million euros ($13.1 million) to correct his tax situation for 2010 and 2011, La Vanguardia reported.

The payment to Spain’s tax authority could mean Messi is seeking to settle the judicial probe he is involved in relating to 2007, 2008 and 2009, the Barcelona-based newspaper said, citing unidentified people familiar with the case.

Public prosecutor Raquel Amado filed a complaint June 12 that said Messi and his father had evaded 4.2 million euros of taxes by routing income from endorsement deals with Adidas AG (ADS), PepsiCo Inc. (PEP), Danone SA (BN) and his club, Barcelona, through companies in the U.K. and Switzerland to Uruguay.

So, Messi threw a boat load of money back at Spain, apparently in an effort to avoid further ramifications of the tax fraud investigation. What's the big problem?

Here's the problem—Messi made a statement on his Facebook page the day of the allegations, assuring that he and his father engaged in no financial wrongdoing.

We communicate "We have just known through the media about the claim filed by the Spanish tax authorities. We are surprised about those news, because we have never committed any infringement. We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations, following the advices of our Tax Consultants who will take care of clarifying this situation."

However, the $13-plus million payment in back taxes reported Monday doesn't quite indicate Messi's innocence in the whole deal.

Arguably the best player of his world football generation and one of the most notable athletes on planet Earth, Messi's potential involvement in any such matter was nothing short of shocking for the sports world. It was also a development that seemed, and still seems, too off-the-wall to be true.

But if Messi's camp "never committed any infringement," why back up a dump truck of cash on the front door of Spain's tax authority?

Tax payments aren't an easy thing to wrap your head around, especially for a person who is the 10th highest-paid athlete in the world, according to Forbes. I can't keep a grasp on my own taxes, much less the taxes of a player who has already made $41.3 million this year.

There's a good chance that Messi had no known involvement in the wrongdoing. Perhaps Messi's tax representatives made a big mistake in filing all of the finances, or maybe the issues happened on the nation's end of things.

But when all we've heard is a denial from Messi and a report of his payment of $13.1 million, the dots don't connect until we hear the specifics.

Messi's display of skill on the pitch is unquestionable. The four-time Ballon d'Or trophy winner (given to the world's best player) scored an insane 91 goals in 2012 and has grown from a promising talent to a world-class phenomenon during his time with Barcelona.

There's no event from Messi's past that indicates he would be involved in any sort of unlawful activity, which has surely given him the benefit of the doubt from most football fans. But hardly anyone would disagree with the fact that they're confused, to say the least, from the revelations.

The only time Messi seems to be in the news for non-football reasons is nothing other than positivity, such as his first son being born late in 2012. The superstar forward lives a relatively quiet life off the pitch, which has only aided his support through this crisis.

But until Messi himself comes out and addresses exactly what happened, there will be more questions than answers surrounding his alleged tax evasion.


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