Four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and his father Jorge have been accused of defrauding Spain of more than €4m (£3.1m), using companies in in Uruguay, Belize, Switzerland and the United Kingdom to hide revenue.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi

The striker's lawyers claimed that he had "never devoted a minute of his life to reading, studying or analysing" the contracts, as his finances were being managed by his father.

Although the Spanish public prosecutor argued that Messi, 28, should not have to answer charges, a judge has ruled that the football star must appear as a defendant alongside his father.

"There are rational signs that the criminality was committed by both accused parties," wrote the judge in a court filing, according to the AFP news agency.

Messi, one of the richest athletes in the world, and his father deny any wrongdoing, and have already handed over a "corrective payment" - equal to the alleged unpaid tax plus interest - of €5m to the tax authorities.

According to the court document, the hearings will take place at a court in Vilanova i la Geltrú near Barcelona, but no date has been set.

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