You can be the greatest soccer player on Earth and leave every defender lying on the ground wondering if his legs are still attached to his body, but that doesn’t mean you can dodge a tax agency.
Wednesday morning, Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi, in Chile at the moment with the Argentine national team for the Copa América, learned he will face trial for alleged tax fraud after a Barcelona court denied an appeal made by his lawyers.
He is accused of benefiting from a complex network of companies that defrauded the Spanish
bank tax agency of €4.1 million (approximately $4.6 million) in income tax between 2007 and 2009 — an enormous amount for us mere mortals, but the equivalent of three weeks’ salary for the Barça player.
According to Forbes Magazine, Messi will earn €73.8 million (approximately $83.6 million) this year. To put this amount in perspective — and show how far away we are from even scratching Lio’s toes — the BBC created a helpful/suicide-inducing app which lets us figure out how long would it take a normal human being to earn La Pulga’s salary. We did the math because we want to ruin your day.
(Warning: you may want to stay away from high promontories and sharp objects for this next one):
To make the same as Messi does in a year, it would take an Argentine earning an average salary of AR$4,716 per month 175,382 years. That’s right, he’d have to go back to the neolithic period, hand out stone-carved CVs in every cave and get his ass to work immediately.
The court’s decision boils down to allegations that Messi’s father, Jorge Messi — who also happens to be his agent — simulated handing over his son’s image rights to companies located in fiscal havens (Belize and Uruguay, among others), thereby keeping those sums from Spanish collecting agencies.
Messi’s lawyers have argued he had no awareness of the situation, as he “never devoted a minute of his life to reading, studying or analyzing” the contracts in question. Shocker.
“My father is in charge of money and I trust him,” Messi son stated at his first hearing.
The prosecutor’s office (consisting of Barcelona fans, maybe?) supported the star’s position and requested closing the case in 2013. “[He] had no knowledge of its illegality,” and followed “his father’s instructions at all times,” the office stated.
Jorge Messi claimed full responsibility for the contracts, avowed his son had nothing to do with them and paid the court €5.6 million (approximately $6.3 million) to cover the allegedly defrauded sum.
However, the chamber in charge of the investigation (Real Madrid fans, possibly?) decided to maintain his indictment, saying he ratified the contracts once he became an adult, thus benefiting from the scheme whether he knew it or not.
“Ignorance shouldn’t guarantee impunity for someone who benefits from others who have designed and organized a structure that allows fraud to happen,” the court declared.
“It’s not normal in a father-son relationship for the former to consciously take actions that could harm the latter without explaining to him, even briefly, the general context and the risks involved,” it added.
The only way out right now is for both parties to reach an extrajudicial agreement. It looks like he won’t be able to dodge this one.