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Published: Thursday, 6/13/2013

Past & present Barcelona presidents unite to defend Messi against tax fraud allegations


BARCELONA, Spain — Barcelona's current and former presidents are setting aside their differences and defending Lionel Messi against allegations of tax fraud, a case that experts say could carry a prison sentence for the Argentina star.

A Spanish state prosecutor filed a fraud complaint on Wednesday alleging that Messi and his father Jorge avoided paying 4 million euros ($5.3 million) in back taxes from 2006-2009 through illegal overseas tax havens.

Joan Laporta, who was club president during the period covered by the complaint, said he is "convinced that neither Leo nor his father have committed any infraction."

Speaking separately, current president Sandro Rosell said the club has no "doubts about (Messi's) innocence."

Rosell and Laporta have been bitter rivals since Rosell left Laporta's board in 2005.

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