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A Spanish court is prosecuting celebrated soccer star Lionel Messi for tax evasion. Messi, who plays for the Argentina national team as well as the Spanish team FC Barcelona, is being charged along with his father, Jorge, who seemed to have handled the Messi family's finances.

Last year, both Messi and his father were accused of defrauding Spain for about $5.4 million in false tax returns, from 2006 to 2009. Though both of them have denied any guilt, it is the foundation for this case against them, and increasingly damages Messi's reputation. 

When officials first began investigating Messi, a public prosecutor suggested the charges be dropped as it was Messi's father, rather than the player, who was responsible. Nonetheless, the court has moved forward with the case. They argue Messi may have known about "the creation of a web of shell companies," which were then used to evade taxes he owned on image rights income. 

Currently, Messi is the fourth highest paid athlete in the world. He earns about $40 million per season, as well as about $23 million from his sponsorship deals. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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