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Messi's agents deny any links to cash laundering

Updated: 2013-12-18 07:04
By Reuters in Madrid ( China Daily)

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi's agents denied on Monday a Spanish newspaper allegation his father was suspected of being involved in laundering Colombian drug money through charity soccer matches.

Leo Messi Management, whose president is the 26-year-old Argentine international's father, Jorge Messi, urged Spanish daily El Mundo to correct the story.

"Jorge Messi has never been connected to the case," LMM said in a statement.

"He has not been investigated or called to testify, much less charged," it said.

"We hope that the newspaper El Mundo will correct the published story in line with the information released by the Interior Ministry," it said.

Spain's police and the Interior Ministry said a Colombian promoter was suspected of laundering drug money through concerts and sporting events in Spain, South America and the US.

But they said there was no evidence of wrongdoing by Messi, his family or other players who play in charity soccer matches organized by the Colombian promoter at the center of the affair.

Besides putting on concerts in Spain, the Colombian firm, which has not been identified, staged charity matches in South America and the US featuring Messi, who is a four-time World Footballer of the Year, and other stars, police said.

Investigators had no evidence so far that the "Messi and Friends" charity games were linked to money laundering, the authorities said.

The Barcelona forward's father had no link with the Colombian company, a police source said.

"He had nothing to do with this firm," the source said, playing down the report in El Mundo, which had described Messi senior as being "at the center" of the affair.

Police said they took witness statements from soccer players to gather information about the company, but they were "ruling out for the moment their involvement in the crime being investigated".

El Mundo named the interviewed players as Barcelona's Messi, Dani Alves, Javier Mascherano and goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto.

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino said neither Lionel Messi nor his family were under any kind of investigation.

"Rumors cause damage when they are true but when they are not true they should not cause damage," Martino said.

"There is nothing that should affect us," he said.

El Mundo deputy director Inaki Gil said the court, not the police, was in charge of the investigation.

He stressed El Mundo at no time suggested Messi's father had been charged with any crime.

In an unrelated matter, Messi and his father appeared in court in September on charges of evading 4.16 million euros ($5 million) in taxes.

They denied wrongdoing, pointing the finger at a former agent.

The famous duo had already repaid the tax authorities five million euros in August - the 4.16 million euros claimed by the taxman, plus interest.