Lionel Messi has been no stranger to financial scandal in recent years. After just avoiding jail time for tax evasion, he’s back in the news again, this time as it relates to his charity, the Leo Messi Foundation. According to Spanish newspaper ABC, the Argentine’s charity “has created a framework to hide millions of euros of income generated from sponsors that has not been declared and, as such, it can’t be confirmed that it has been spent on social projects to help children with problems.”
ABC also reported that the Foundation “masked a large part of its income between 2007 and 2015.” Allegedly, at least $11 million have not been declared to the Spanish or Argentine authorities. ABC went on to implicate the Foundation as yet another “umbrella” to cover up Messi and his family’s private businesses.
In their report, ABC created a timeline chronicling the foundation’s notable actions. It shows that the framework in question was put in place in 2007, when the Foundation first began operating in Barcelona. In May 2009, Lionel Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, created a sub-office in Rosario, Argentina.
This is where things get a little tricky. At that point in time, the parent NGO (non-governmental organization) was not registered with the Spanish authorities, which was an obligatory step. ABC states that instead, the organization wasn’t actually registered until 2013 in Barcelona, about six years after its inception.
The sub-office in Messi’s home city of Rosario was signing contracts in the name of the NGO in Argentina, and others in the name of the NGO in Spain. The problem is, none of that income was being declared. Consequently, according to databases reviewed by ABC, the Argentine tax authorities de-registered the Rosario-based NGO. The de-registration was a result of the company not presenting its accounts for three consecutive years.
Messi might have just gotten off relatively scot-free for his tax evasion, but the misappropriation and misrepresentation of charity funds could be another huge blemish on his legacy. It all depends on how Spanish authorities treat this new bombshell report by ABC.