Spanish daily El Periodico is reporting that Barcelona striker Lionel Messi has apparently agreed to pay an out-of-court settlement of close to $20 million against claims that he and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, avoided paying taxes on the sale of his image rights from 2006-2009. The pair had allegedly used a series of shell companies in tax havens like Uruguay and Belize to shield royalties and other licensing income from Spanish authorities. Messi’s legal team has yet to confirm or deny reports of the settlement.
According to El Periodico, Messi and his father also paid $13 million in back taxes to the Spanish Treasury for 2010 and 2011 earlier this week, and the Argentine is expected to make an additional payment for 2012 by June 30th, taking his total outlay to Spanish tax authorities this month to a staggering $39 million. Messi is ranked 10th on Forbes’ list of the world’s most highly paid athletes, with estimated annual earnings of $41 million in salary and endorsements.