Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 28th 2013 Contents A62
Saturday, September 28, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
GAVA---Cheered by fans and with a smile
on his face, Lionel Messi didn t look like
a man facing a multimillion-euro fine and
possible jail time when he arrived to face
a judge s questions in a tax fraud court case
The Barcelona star gave answers for around
half an hour after his father Jorge Horacio
Messi was also questioned. After they were
whisked away in separate cars, Messi s lawyer
briefly spoke outside the courthouse No. 3
in Gava, an easygoing coastal town just south
of Barcelona near Messi s residence.
"The Messi family has wanted that we
act with transparency, clarity and with a
sense of cooperation, and that is how things
went today as well," said Cristobal Martell,
Messi s lawyer.
"It was evident that there was little intent
of committing fraud and a great willingness
to normalise the situation with the tax office
and to not get involved in a fierce battle with
the state in an attempt to interpret the current
A complaint lodged by a Spanish state
prosecutor in June said Messi and his father
tried to conceal earnings from the player s
image rights. The complaint alleged the
Argentina international owed €4 million
(US$5.3 million) in back taxes from 2007,
2008 and 2009.
Messi s father made a payment of more
than €5 million (US$6.6 million) on August
14 to cover alleged back taxes and interest.
That payment led the court to decide that
neither Messi nor his father needed to post
Yesterday s hearing was to see if there
were clear indications of illegality. If so, then
the judge could recommend that the case
be prosecuted, barring an out-of-court set-
If the case goes to trial and Messi and his
father are found guilty, they could face a
fine reaching 150 per cent of the amount
of back taxes and a possible prison sen-
In the complaint, state prosecutor Raquel
Amado alleges that from 2006-09 Messi
"obtained significant revenue derived from
the transfer to third parties of his image
rights, income which should have been
taxed." The complaint says Messi "circum-
vented his tax obligations" by using shell
companies in tax havens such as Belize and
Messi and his father have always denied
any wrongdoing. They have received the
backing of Barcelona president Sandro Rosell
and former president Joan Laporta, who
was head of the club during the years covered
in the complaint.
Messi, wearing a suit but no tie, arrived
looking relaxed at the courthouse an hour
after his father.
Messi was hailed by a group of fans and
curious passers-by that grew to around 50
people, including many children, alongside
about 100 journalists and photographers.
Upon leaving the courthouse, several fans
chanted "Messi! Messi!" and a few teenagers
chased his car as it sped away down a sunny
The case has apparently not distracted
Messi at work. Messi is joint-leading scorer
of the Spanish league with seven goals.
Barcelona plays at Almeria today looking to
maintain its lead of the league.
The 26-year-old Messi is widely consid-
ered the best player of his generation after
winning several titles with Barcelona and
the highest individual award, the world
player of the year, a record four years in a
Messi is rated by Forbes as the world s
tenth highest-paid athlete. He reportedly
earned US$41.3 million to June this year,
US$20.3 million coming from his club salary
and US$21 million in endorsements.
The soft-spoken Messi had steered clear
of scandal in his highly successful career.
Spain has been trying to crack down on
tax evasion as it fights to repair the country s
public finances amid a double-dip reces-
Finance Minister Cristobal Montoro
warned football players in April they should
make sure they are "comfortable" with their
tax affairs. Last year former Barcelona player
Luis Figo paid €2.45 million in taxes per-
taining to image rights from 1997-99. (AP)
Messi answers questions
in tax fraud case
LONDON---Jose Mourinho has hit out at Andre
Villas-Boas for revealing their once strong per-
sonal and professional relationship has broken
On the eve of their first clash as coaches, when
Mourinho s Chelsea visits Villas-Boas Tottenham
in the English Premier League today, the latter
admitted he no longer had a relationship with his
one-time mentor and was not losing sleep over
it.But Mourinho wasn t impressed with Villas-
Boas admitting it in public.
"I don t describe (the relationship), because I m
not a kid to discuss relationships with the media,"
Mourinho said yesterday. "It s a personal thing. I
don t care what he says. I m not here to comment
on what he says. I m not interested."
Villas-Boas worked under Mourinho as a scout
at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan before deciding
to go his own way after being denied a more senior
Their bond soured after Villas-Boas left Mour-
inho to take over Portugese team Academica.
After winning an impressive treble in charge at
Porto, Villas-Boas became coach at Chelsea and
moved on to Tottenham.
"We had a great personal and professional rela-
tionship before that we don t have now," he said.
"I don t think we need explanations but our
relationship broke down. I think we have the
mutual respect for each other and we understand
what we ve been through cannot just disappear,
but it s not like it was before."
Villas-Boas and Mourinho both cite the late
Bobby Robson as having a strong influence on
their coaching careers while the Englishman was
manager at Porto from 1994-96.
Mourinho was Robson s interpreter at the club
while Villas-Boas lived in the same block and
famously once lectured the new manager on his
tactics and player selection.
Villas-Boas claimed connection with Robson
seemed, however, to jar with Mourinho. When
asked whether the "spirit" of Robson would be at
White Hart Lane this weekend the Chelsea manager
said, "Why? Where (did) he work with Andre?"
Villas-Boas enters today s game with the upper
hand, with home advantage and a two-point lead
over Chelsea in the standings.
Spurs have won eight of their first nine games
this season, conceding just one goal.
"This game won t have any significant impact,"
Villas-Boas said. "It s normally in the games against
the other teams that can affect your position a
little more dramatically. This is a big clash between
two teams that competed hard for the Champions
League spots last season."
He added, "I think we could have the tightest
Premier League in years. We just have to continue
getting the most amount of points as possible."
admits to fallout
striker Robin van Persie is likely to
return from a groin injury today
against West Bromwich Albion at Old
Van Persie, last season s top scorer in
the English Premier League, has missed
recent matches against Manchester City
and Liverpool but has returned to train-
United manager David Moyes said
yesterday the Netherlands striker is back
fit and "he will be back involved some-
where." Moyes added that midfielder
Tom Cleverley, who did not feature in
the 1-0 win over Liverpool in the League
Cup after receiving a knock, also
resumed training. (AP)
Van Persie expected to return against West Brom
LONDON---Although he has not won a trophy
in eight years, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
keeps enjoying the backing of the club s owner
and thinks a prolonged stay could make him
Wenger, the longest serving manager in the
English Premier League after 17 years in charge,
reiterated his desire to stay at the London club
beyond next summer when his contract expires.
"Honestly, I would love to be here forever
because that would mean I would be immortal,"
Wenger told a news conference on Friday ahead
of Arsenal s trip to Swansea. "I m not naive
enough to believe that. What I would like to
club because I love this club."
The Frenchman was targeted by Paris Saint-
Germain last season but this week received the
full backing of Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke,
who said he wants him to remain on a long-
term basis and feels "totally aligned" with
"I am very honoured to have the support of
Stan Kroenke," said Wenger, adding that he has
turned away many jobs offers during his tenure.
"That he thinks I can help the club is a huge
confidence vote. That is something for me that
is very positive. I don t know (when I will sign
a new contract). When we find time."
Not everyone at the club seemed to share
the owner s views earlier this season when
Wenger was criticised by supporters for his fail-
ure to attract big players. But the signing of
German playmaker Mesut Ozil for a club-record
transfer fee of 50 million euros combined with
the Gunners good start to the season has eased
tensions. Wenger is also credited for the club s
healthy financial results over the years. But
many fans are craving for another trophy, nos-
talgic of an era when the Gunners were fighting
toe to toe for the Premier League title every
season. Wenger, who was appointed as Arsenal
manager in October 1996, did not take long to
win his first trophy, guiding the Gunners to the
Premier League title in 1998. He won it again
in 2002 and triumphantly claimed a third crown
two years later as his side stayed unbeaten
during the entire league campaign. (AP)
Wenger willing to stay at Arsenal 'forever'
Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi, centre right, gestures, as he arrives at a court to answer
questions in a tax fraud case, in Gava, near Barcelona, Spain, yesterday. Messi and his father
are appearing before a Spanish judge to answer questions in a tax fraud case. AP PHOTO
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