Last Updated Apr 4, 2016 2:34 PM EDT
The Barcelona star was among those named in reports by international media who received a vast trove of data and documents leaked from a law firm based in Panama.
Still in the initial discovery stages as journalists pour through the 11.5 million files, the “Panama Papers” leak has implicated world leaders, businesses and celebrities in the practice of using shell companies to launder and hide money, avoid taxes, and other dealings.
Messi’s family released a statement Monday denying wrongdoing and threatened to sue media outlets that released the information linking the Argentine player to accounts in Panama.
Last year, Spanish authorities charged Messi and his father with three counts of tax fraud for allegedly defrauding Spain’s tax office of 4.1 million euros ($4.4 million) in unpaid taxes from 2007-09. They go on trial in late May and face nearly two years in prison if found guilty.
Prosecutors had said Messi — a four-time world player of the year — was not fully aware of his father’s unlawful activities and should not have been charged, but the state attorney’s office contended that the Argentina forward knew enough to also be named in the case.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 4, 2016
Messi is not alone in the soccer world to be caught up in the data leak.
A FIFA judge who helped ban Sepp Blatter for financial misconduct is now under investigation by his ethics committee colleagues after being named in an international probe of offshore accounts.
The FIFA ethics prosecution chamber said Monday that it “opened a preliminary investigation to review the allegations” linked to lawyer Juan Pedro Damiani of Uruguay.
Damiani was identified in a vast trove of data and documents leaked from a law firm in Panama, Mossack Fonseca, which specializes in creating offshore accounts that can be used to avoid tax.
He heads his family’s legal and accountancy practice in Montevideo founded by his late father, Jose Pedro Damiani. The FIFA case against Damiani was opened in March after ethics judges learned of his “business relationship” with former FIFA vice president Eugenio Figueredo, a fellow Uruguayan arrested in Zurich.
In addition to Damiani, suspended UEFA president Michel Platini said all his accounts and assets are known by tax authorities after he was named in leaked documents about offshore accounts from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
According to the Le Monde newspaper, Platini has been managing an offshore company funded in Panama in 2007 and named Balney Enterprises Corp.
Platini’s advisers said in a statement Monday that the former France international soccer star “wants to inform that, as he stated it many times to the journalists in charge of the investigation, all of his accounts and assets are known to the tax authorities in Switzerland, where he has been a fiscal resident since 2007.”
Platini’s advisers declined to confirm whether he actually managed the company. Platini was suspended from office in October by FIFA’s ethics committee and is now serving a six-year ban over a $2 million payment that former FIFA president Sepp Blatter approved from FIFA funds in 2011.