Barcelona's Lionel Messi is to be prosecuted for alleged tax evasion despite earlier recommendations from the public prosecutor that the charges be dropped against the Argentine star.
Last month, prosecutors in Spain asked a judge to drop the charges against the 27-year-old, saying his father, Jorge, was in charge of the player's finances and was thus to blame for the alleged wrongdoing, per BBC News.
However, a Spanish court decided Monday to continue investigating both father and son—who deny the allegations—as the Barcelona player is still believed to be involved, per Reuters, via The Guardian:
The court in Barcelona has decided that Lionel Messi could have known about and approved the creation of a web of shell companies that were allegedly used to evade taxes due on income from image rights. The judge in the case ruled that the case against both Messis should continue.
The charges against Messi and his father came to light last year, with the pair accused of defrauding the Spanish state of more than €4 million (£3.1 million) between 2006 and 2009.
In August, Jorge Messi paid €5 million to the tax authorities, "equal to the alleged unpaid tax plus interest," per BBC News.
The judge's ruling means Lionel Messi continues to be an official suspect in the case.
A statement was released, via AS, in which the judge said there is "sufficient evidence" to suggest he "could have known about and consented to the creation and upkeep of a fictitious business structure, whose only purpose was to evade compliance with those tax obligations arising from the income generated by the exploitation of his image rights."
Football journalist Rafael Hernandez seems unconvinced that Messi was involved in active tax evasion:
The judge really "believes" Messi authorised his entourage to commit tax fraud, create ghost companies and more. Obviously.— Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) July 28, 2014
Messi recently returned from the World Cup in Brazil after his Argentina side lost to Germany in the final and he received the Golden Ball award for the player of the tournament. In seven appearances, he tallied four goals and one assist, and WhoScored.com gave him an average match rating of 8.52.
Barcelona will be aiming to return to winning ways in La Liga and the Champions League in the 2014-15 season after missing out on any significant silverware last term.
Messi continues to be the essential cog in the Barca machine, and the continuation of the court case will no doubt be an unwelcome distraction.