Argentina and Barcelona football star Lionel Messi has arrived in court on Thursday, 2nd, June 2016, in Barcelona. He arrived to take the stand for the first time at his tax fraud trial in Spain. The 28-year-old, who wore a black suit and tie, was cheered and jeered as he emerged from a van accompanied by his father Jorge Horacio Messi.
On entering the court, so many onlookers threw shades at him. “Thief!,” yelled out one onlooker. “Go play in Panama,” cried out another onlooker who was happy as he makes his way into the court.
Messi in court, “If he cheated, he has to be sentenced no matter how much of an idol and Ballon d’Or winner he is. These are four million euros less to pay for hospitals, schools, firefighters, roads,” Jose Seco de Herrero, 25, told AFP.
The two are accused of using a chain of fake companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes on 4.16 million euros ($4.6 million) of Messi’s income earned through the sale of his image rights from 2007-09. Dozens of photographers and onlookers crowded behind metal barriers and a line of police that guarded the entrance of the court to catch a glimpse of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
The tax fraud trial comes at a time of simmering voter anger over steep government cuts to health and social spending, as the government struggles to bring Spain’s public deficit down. Messi and his father will be questioned on Thursday on the third day of the trial. It is expected to wrap up on Friday.
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