GAVA, Spain -- Cheered by fans and with a smile on his face, Lionel Messi didn't look like a man facing a multimillion-euro fine and possible jail time when he arrived to face a judge's questions in a tax fraud court case on Friday.
The Barcelona star gave answers for around half an hour after his father Jorge Horacio Messi was also questioned. After they were whisked away in separate cars, Messi's lawyer briefly spoke outside the courthouse No. 3 in Gava, an easygoing coastal town just south of Barcelona near Messi's residence.
"The Messi family has wanted that we act with transparency, clarity and with a sense of co-operation, and that is how things went today as well," said Cristobal Martell, Messi's lawyer.
"It was evident that there was little intent of committing fraud and a great willingness to normalize the situation with the tax office and to not get involved in a fierce battle with the state in an attempt to interpret the current tax regulations."
A complaint lodged by a Spanish state prosecutor in June said Messi and his father tried to conceal earnings from the player's image rights. The complaint alleged the Argentina international owed 4 million euros ($5.3 million) in back taxes from 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Messi's father made a payment of more than 5 million euros ($6.6 million) on Aug. 14 to cover alleged back taxes and interest. That payment led the court to decide that neither Messi nor his father needed to post bail.
Friday's hearing was to see if there are clear indications of illegality. If so, the judge could recommend the case be prosecuted, barring an out-of-court settlement.
-- The Associated Press