BARCELONA

Barça's Leo Messi testifies in court over alleged tax evasion

The Barcelona player faces charges of defrauding the Spanish tax authorities out of 4.1 million euros. He took the stand on Thursday in the High Court.

Messi arrives at the Barcelona High Court to face his tax evasion charges

Barcelona star Lionel Messi, one of the world's highest-paid athletes, arrived on Thursday at the Barcelona High Court to take the stand for the first time during his trial for tax fraud

Answering questions posed by the public prosecutor, the Argentina captain denied any knowledge of the ins-and-outs of his image rights deals and said that when he signed the documents that form the basis of the prosecution's case, he did so "trusting in my dad and my lawyers."

Messi in the courtroom, facing tax evasion charges.

Messi accused of evading 4.1 million euros of tax

Messi who wore a black suit and tie, was both cheered and jeered as he emerged from a van, accompanied by his father Jorge Horacio Messi at 10:15 (CEST) this morning.

The two are accused of using a chain of fake companies in Belize and Uruguay to avoid paying taxes of 4.16 million euros on Messi's income earned through the sale of his image rights from 2007-09.

Asked in court on Thursday about the activity of the companies set up to deal with his image rights, the player answered:"I never asked my dad about these things. The truth is that as my dad explained before, I trusted him and the lawyers. I didn't know anything about it, I just played football."

On the existence of a company called Jenbril, registered in Uruguay to handle payments relating to his image rights, Messi said: "I didn't know I was a member and manager of this company, I signed it because he [Jorge Messi] said so and I trusted him and the lawyers. All I knew was that I was signing a deal with sponsors to do adverts, photo shoots and things like that. I remember we went to a notary but I was 18 when I signed it and as you can imagine, I was in a different world. I don't remember anything about it."

For his part, Jorge Messi stated on repeated occasions that his son "knew nothing about it."

Messi arrives at courtBarcelona's football star Lionel Messi (R) followed by his father Jorge Horacio Messi.

Messi faces possible 22 month jail sentence

A massive media presence greeted Messi father and son, with more than 200 journalists present. Messi will speak today in the third day of the ongoing case with state lawyers requesting a prison sentence of 22 months and 15 days for the football player.

Even where Messi was given such a jail sentence this would likely be suspended as is common in Spain for first offences carrying a sentence of less than two years.

The case for the defence: Messi knew nothing

Messi's defense lawyers have argued that the player "never devoted a minute of his life to reading, studying or analysing" the contracts, and therefore knew nothing about his financial arrangements.

But the court in Barcelona ruled in June 2015 that the player should not be granted special immunity for not knowing what was happening with his finances, which were being managed in part by his father Jorge Horacio Messi. 

Messi's tax advisors

Messi's former tax advisors gave their vocal support to the Barcelona striker when they took the stand on Wednesday, saying the player never handled his own tax affairs.

He "didn't take any decisions and I didn't see anyone consulting him for anything", Ángel Juárez, one of the partners at law firm Juárez Veciana which managed Messi's tax affairs at the time, told the court.

Inigo de Loyola Juarez, another partner and Juárez's brother, added: "I don't know if any of my correspondence has been included in the case, but they will see that Lionel Messi does not appear in any of it."

The Barcelona striker and his legal defence team have long argued that Messi's father handled the footballer's finances without reporting to him, and the striker was not aware of any wrongdoing.

A verdict on the case is expected sometime next week.