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Messi Should Be Cleared of Tax Evasion, Prosecutor Says

A Spanish prosecutor recommended that Lionel Messi, the captain of Argentina’s national soccer team, be cleared of tax evasion while keeping his father an official suspect.

“Messi didn’t participate in the decision making of the management and use of his earnings,” prosecutor Raquel Amado said in a presentation, a copy of which was e-mailed to Bloomberg News. “It was his father who, advised by third parties that reported to him and not to the player, decided on the management and allocation of his son’s earnings.”

Prosecutors filed a complaint in 2013 that the 26-year-old Barcelona player and his father evaded 4.2 million euros ($5.7 million) in taxes on endorsement payments from Adidas AG, PepsiCo Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. and other companies. The government is pursuing the case after the Messis paid 5 million euros, the amount prosecutors say they evaded plus interest.

According to prosecutors, Jorge Messi, the player’s father, oversaw the use of companies in Belize, the U.K., Switzerland and Uruguay to divert money away from the Spanish tax agency. The elder Messi has said his son had nothing to do with the tax structure.

Lionel Messi, a four-time World Player of the Year, is currently leading the Argentine national football team in the World Cup in Brazil, where he scored the winning goal in the team’s first match, a 2-1 victory against Bosnia-Herzegovina on June 15.

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