Barcelona’s Messi to face tax fraud trial

A Spanish judge rejects an appeal filed by Lionel Messi's lawyers to drop tax fraud charges against the Barcelona star

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A Spanish judge rejected an appeal filed by Lionel Messi's lawyers on Friday to drop tax fraud charges against the Barcelona star.

The judge rebutted the counter demand that Messi be excluded from the case against him and his father, who are accused of withholding 4 million euros ($5.3 million) in unpaid taxes from 2007-09.

"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 judge said in a statement.

Messi's public relations firm released a statement later Friday saying that Messi's lawyers will file a second appeal to a higher court in Barcelona.

Friday's ruling was issued by the same court in Gava, near Messi's home outside Barcelona, which had ruled in July for the case to go forward against both Messi and his father despite the state prosecutor's recommendation that the Argentina star be excluded on the same grounds now unsuccessfully argued by his lawyers.

Messi's father made a payment of more than 5 million euros ($6.6 million) in August 2013 to cover unpaid taxes, plus interest.

The statement released by Messi's PR firm said the new appeal will be filed within the time limit of five days.

"The defense will demonstrate that Leo Messi had no knowledge of the economic management of his income," the statement said. "The amount of money due is not under dispute and in fact has already been paid in its entirety."

This is the second high-profile legal case involving a Barcelona player under way.

A separate court in Madrid is hearing a lawsuit that accuses former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell of misappropriated funds to hide the cost of the transfer fee paid to acquire Brazil striker Neymar from Santos in 2013.

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