Soccer Star Lionel Messi Pays $13M in Back Taxes

Lionel Messi H

The athlete is accused of using shell companies to hide money earned through ad campaigns.

MADRID - Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi, who plays for FC Barcelona in Spain, has voluntarily paid €10 million ($13 million) to Spanish tax authorities, looking to settle a fraud charge lodged against him earlier this month.

Authorities accused Messi and his father of tax fraud over a three-year period amounting to more than €4 million ($5.3 million). Messi, the four-time winner of the Golden Ball and one of the 10 highest-paid athletes according to Forbes magazine, was accused of using fiscal paradises in Belize and Uruguay to hide some €10.1 million ($13.4 million) earned through advertising campaigns.

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During the years of 2007-09, Messi failed to report earnings from commercial use of his image by his current team as well as Spanish telecom Telefonica, yogurt producer Danone, video game company Konami, bank Banc de Sabadell, airline Air Europa, Adidas and Pepsi.

According to the tax authorities, the scheme to hide the earnings was put into place by the player's father, Jorge Messi, while his son -- who turned 26 on Monday, the day he paid the back taxes -- was still a minor.

Lionel Messi is scheduled to go before a judge Sept. 17 --coinciding with a scheduled Spanish soccer league match -- for the fraud case. Some tax attorneys say that Messi may been able to avoid a larger fine by paying back the taxes voluntarily. Others estimate Messi may have to pay a fine of €24.6 million but will be able to avoid the trial.