By Marion Ali, Staff Reporter
Lionel Messi, Barcelona and Argentina football star is to face trial for alleged tax evasion.
A Spanish judge has rejected a prosecution recommendation to drop the charges on the grounds that the player’s father was responsible for his finances.
Messi and his father, Jorge are accused of defrauding the authorities of more than US $5 million.
The pair, who deny wrongdoing, have five days to appeal against the ruling. It is alleged that they withheld the money between 2007 and 2009.
Messi and his father are suspected of avoiding paying Spanish tax by using companies in Belize and Uruguay to sell the rights to use Messi’s image.
In August 2013 Messi and his father made a 5 million euro “corrective payment”, equal to the alleged unpaid tax plus interest.
The court decision comes as Barcelona grapples with a separate prominent legal case.
A Madrid court is hearing a lawsuit that accuses Barcelona of misappropriating funds from the transfer fee to buy Brazil striker Neymar from Santos in 2013.
Messi has been four times Fifa World Player of the Year and is captain of Argentina.