Argentine soccer idol Lionel Messi and his father/manager, Jorge Horacio Messi, testified that their legal and financial advisers were to blame for the maneuvers which prompted Spanish authorities to charge them with tax fraud.
“I just played football,” the FC Barcelona star told the judge. “I signed the contracts because I trusted my dad and the lawyers and we had decided that they would take charge of those things.”
Jorge Messi, for his part, said the attorneys assured him “that everything was legal, everything was right.”
“I do not understand accounting issues,” Jorge said. “For me, it is all basically Chinese.”
The father and son were charged in June 2013 with having concealed some of Leo Messi’s endorsement income on the player’s 2007, 2008 and 2009 tax returns.
Within weeks, Leo Messi paid 10 million euros ($13.2 million) in addendums to his 2010 and 2011 tax returns, which also were being investigated.
Messi and his father later paid 5 million euros ($6.6 million) to the Spanish treasury in back taxes for 2007, 2008 and 2009.
If convicted, the two men could be sentenced to 22 months in prison, though jail time is seen as unlikely.
Amid a media frenzy and heavy security, father and son arrived at the courthouse in Barcelona a little after 10 p.m., accompanied by son-and-brother Rodrigo and employees of FC Barcelona.
Leo Messi took the stand after sitting through nearly four hours of testimony from tax inspectors.
Jorge Messi arranged for Leo’s endorsement income to be transferred to shell corporations domiciled in tax havens such as Belize and Uruguay.
Asked about one of those shell companies, Uruguay-based Jenbril, Leo Messi said he didn’t know that he was listed as one of the firm’s managing partners.
“I didn’t know about it. I never asked my dad about these things. I signed the contract because I trusted my dad and because the lawyers said that we should do it this way,” the man regarded by many as the world’s best soccer player said.