Messi to face trial over tax evasion claim

Spanish courts have ruled there is sufficient evidence to suggest the Argentine was aware of his agent and father's "designs to commit fraud"

Lionel Messi is to go on trial on a charge of tax evasion after a magistrate on Friday dismissed his appeal against being named in the case.

The Barcelona superstar had claimed he was not aware of the financial dealings of his father and agent Jorge, with the pair accused of defrauding the tax authorities of €4.1 million between 2006 and 2009.

It is alleged that Messi's image rights were sold by Jorge - who assumed full responsibility when the case began - using companies in countries like Belize and Uruguay to avoid Spanish tax obligations.

Messi has protested his innocence throughout and insisted he is not guilty of any wrongdoing.

However, the judge at the court in Gava, a seaside resort near Barcelona where Messi has a house, ruled today "in this type of crime, it is not necessary for someone to have complete knowledge of all the accounting and business operations nor the exact quantity, rather it is sufficient to be aware of the designs to commit fraud and consent to them”.

The player and his father paid just over €5m - the alleged unpaid tax plus interest - to authorities last year as a corrective payment and it had looked as if the case would be closed but the state has opted to pursue the pair.

The judge also rejected Messi's request to have Alfonso Nebot, lawyer Angel Juarez and Barcelona's director of marketing and commercial activities, Raul Sanllehí, called as witnesses. The judge ruled that their testimony would not "be pertinent".