The Panama Papers leak is that of Barcelona and Argentina player Lionel Messi. He is accused of “setting up a tax fraud network” by using Panamian company Mega Star Enterprises. With the major expose, the Argentine is set to sue the Spanish media outlet which was part of the investigation that panned numerous media outlets across the globe. Reports from Panama indicated Messi created a Panamanian corporation alongside his father just one day after Spanish authorities said he evaded 4.1million euros.
The player and his father are expected to issue a statement and express their opinion regarding the case and the veracity of the claims made. The paper trail originates from an enormous leak of over two terabytes of information from Mossack Fonseca, a company in Panama that specializes in offshore businesses. The Mossack Fonseca documents include the names of nearly 20 high-profile footballers, past and present, representing some of the globe’s best-known professional football clubs, including Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid.
The investigation goes beyond the world of sport, however, with accusations spanning from Russian President Vladimir Putin to well known Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar. The leaked records show Messi signed at least one document reflecting his ownership of the entity, but his father took over sole ownership of the company in December 2015. The company remains active in Panama’s company register.
The files also include the offshore holdings of current or former owners of at least 20 major clubs, including Internazionale and Boca Juniors.
Meanwhile, a member of FIFA’s Ethics Committee, Juan Pedro Damiani, is being investigated by the body into alleged links with Eugenio Figueredo, a former FIFA vice president being held on corruption charges.
Uruguayan Figueredo, the former head of CONMEBOL, was arrested in Zurich last May as part of the US-led inquiry into football corruption. He was charged by US authorities with wire fraud and money laundering.
On Sunday, FIFA said it had recently become aware of a possible business relationship between the pair and had “opened a preliminary investigation to review the allegations in question”.
Discovery of Figueredo’s links to Damiani are the result of the documents from the internal files of Mossack Fonseca.
The FIFA statement made no suggestion of any illegal activity on Damiani’s part.
“We confirm that on March 19th the investigatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee was informed by the chairman of the adjudicatory chamber, Hans-Joachim Eckert, about becoming recently aware of a business relationship between the member of the adjudicatory chamber Juan Pedro Damiani, and Eugenio Figueredo Aguerre,” FIFA said when contacted by Omnisport.
“After receiving the information, Dr. Cornel Borbely, chairman of the investigatory chamber of the Ethics Committee, has immediately opened a preliminary investigation to review the allegations in question.
“Dr. Borbely is currently looking into said allegations in order to determine if there is a breach against the FIFA Code of Ethics and decide any further measures.”