BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) – Soccer’s five-times World Player of the Year Lionel Messi should be acquitted on tax evasion charges against him, Spain’s public prosecutors’ office said on Friday as the trial drew to a close.
Neither Messi nor his father Jorge Horacio Messi attended the hearing in a Barcelona court where closing arguments were given.
Both are accused by the Spanish tax office of defrauding the government of 4.2 million euros ($4.8 million) between 2007 and 2009 but have denied any wrongdoing.
Speaking on whether or not Lionel Messi was aware of the alleged fraud, state prosecutor Raquel Amado said: “There is no evidence that anyone explained it to him … the prosecutor sustains that Lionel Andres Messi should be acquitted.”
The state attorney’s office, which represents the tax authorities, meanwhile, accuses the player of tax fraud and gives “zero credibility” to the defense that Messi had no knowledge of the case.
“They are unfamiliar with tax issues but they are able to understand what it is to pay taxes,” said state lawyer Mario Maza during his summation.
If found guilty, both Messi and his father could face jail terms of up to 22 months, although first-time offenders with a sentence of under two years do not normally serve time in jail in Spain.
No date has been given for a ruling.
($1 = 0.8828 euros)
(Reporting by Cindy Garcia; Editing by Paul Day and Tom Heneghan)