Lionel Messi, a five-time world player of the year, is planning to sue El Confidencial over accusations that the Barcelona forward was related to a tax fraud network in the Panama Papers leak. The Spanish newspaper accused Messi of using Panamanian shell company Mega Star Enterprises in order to avoid paying tax on image rights deals.

This is just one of the references the Panama Papers make to soccer personalities, as a bunch of FIFA members appear in the documents for money laundering, wire fraud and for their role in the bribery conspiracy.

The records show Messi and his father were owners of a Panama company: Mega Star Enterprises Inc. Credit: ICIJ

The captain of the Argentina national team is due in Spanish court along with his father Jorge Messi on 31 May over separate tax evasion charges, according to a report by The Independent. They are already under indictment in Spain for using offshore firms in Uruguay and Belize to avoid millions of dollars in taxes.

The Spanish newspaper produced documents showing their signatures acquiring Mega Star Enterprises through an Uruguayan company, just a day after Spanish fiscal authorities indicted the soccer star and his father as part of an investigation for an alleged €4.1 million in unpaid taxes.

The offshore company does not appear in the indictments made by the government in 2014 and 2015 against them. Messi’s father is the only owner of the Mega Star Enterprises since December 2015.

The Panama Papers reveal illegal money handling by several FIFA members

The Mossack Fonseca’s files expose offshore companies used by a significant number of sports agents and soccer clubs, league officials, team owners and an array of players.

A yearlong joint investigation between the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and other media partners examined over 11 million records from internal documents of Mossack Fonseca, which is a law firm based in Panama that focuses on helping world leaders and other wealthy personalities set up shell companies to protect their finances.

From left: Fifa’s President Gianni Infantino, President of Uruguay’s soccer club Penarol Juan Pedro Damiani and President of the Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) Wilmar Valdez. Photo: Reuters/

In the extensive investigation appear the names of about 20 high-profile soccer players who represent Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid, among other worldwide known professional football clubs.

Mossack Fonseca helped four of the 16 FIFA officials indicted in the United States create offshore companies, which have been mostly used to hold cash from image rights deals. The leaked documents, shared by an anonymous source, revealed that the law firm of a FIFA ethics watchdog was linked to three men involved the world soccer association’s corruption scandal, according to the ICIJ.

The ICIJ’s reported that the confidential files showed previously unknown business between the three man and Juan Pedro Damiani, who is a member of FIFA’s Independent Ethics Committee known for banning several high-level executives.

The documents reveal that Damiani worked for at least seven years for shell companies related to Eugenio Figueredo, a former FIFA vice-president who has been indicted by U.S. authorities for wire fraud and money laundering for being involved in the alleged bribery conspiracy.

The Panama Papers leak also includes the offshore holdings of past and present owners of at least 20 major soccer clubs such as Boca Juniors and Internazionale Milano. However, in the files also appear the names of former and current athletes from other sports, including golf and hockey.

Source: The Independent