Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi's family has released a statement following media reports that the star Argentine was one of the personalities named in the massive Panama Papers leak. In a statement on 4 April, Messi's family said the footballer was not involved in any form of tax evasion or fraud.
"In light of the reports issued by various media outlets, who have attributed Lionel Messi to creating a corporate structure, aimed at 'launching a new network of tax fraud', the Messi family wishes to make it clear that Lionel Messi has not carried out any of the false or slanderous acts alleged against him," said Messi's family in a statement.
"The Panamanian company referred to in such reports is a completely inactive company, which never had funds or any open current accounts and derived from the old corporate structure implemented by the previous tax advisers of the Messi family. The reports have also linked such claims with totally-unrelated facts, as in the case of so-called 'charity matches'."
The statement further added that using Messi's surname to promote a media story is a "serious" concern and "can bring irreparable harm to Lionel Messi." Meanwhile, Messi's lawyers have been instructed that legal action can be taken against media outlets spreading the false news, reported EuroSport.
Meanwhile, FC Barcelona is standing by Messi and released a statement saying: "Following the claims that place Leo Messi at the creation of a corporate structure with the supposed intention of committing tax fraud, FC Barcelona states that: The club supports the arguments which the Messi family published in a statement today. ... The Club makes all of its judicial means, fiscal and administrative, at the family's disposal in order to make his actions and honour clear in this case."
Messi was named amongst several other world leaders, like Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the King of Saudi Arabia, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, and several other celebrities who were found using offshore companies for alleged tax avoidance in a massive leak of confidential documents from law firm Mossack Fonseca. Meanwhile, Mossack Fonseca director Ramon Fonseca has denied any wrongdoing. He said the firm had suffered a hack on its database and described the leak as "an international campaign against privacy", according to Reuters. Additionally, all of those implicated in the ICIJ Panama Papers report have been afforded the opportunity to respond: Visit the ICIJ website to read the responses.