Five-time World Player of the Year, Lionel Messi will give evidence for the first time in a Spanish court on tax fraud charges, Thursday.
The Argentina and Barcelona forward and his father Jorge, who manages his financial affairs, are accused of using two offshore companies in Belize and Uruguay to conceal earnings from image rights of over $4.5m between 2007 and 2009 .
They deny any wrongdoing but if found guilty, they risk hefty fines or prison sentences of up to 22 months in jail.
Messi’s lawyers had initially put up a defense to prevent the trial arguing that the player had “never devoted a minute of his life to reading, studying or analysing” the contracts.
But the high court in Barcelona ruled in June 2015 that the Argentine should not be granted immunity for not knowing what was happening with his finances, which were being managed in part by his father.
Messi and his father made a voluntary $5.6m “corrective payment” – equal to the alleged unpaid tax plus interest – in August 2013.
The trial began on Tuesday and is expected to end on Thursday but a verdict is not expected until next week.
Because of the trial, Messi has missed part of his national team’s preparations for the Copa America, which starts on Friday in the US. Argentina’s first game is on Monday June 6.
He would give evidence on income related to his image rights, including contracts with Banco Sabadell, Danone, Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Procter and Gamble, and the Kuwait Food Company.
Messi is estimated to be the world’s most valuable footballer according to a recent list released by FIFA/CIES International University Network.