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Football Leaks: The English straw man


The company Sidefloor belonged to the tax evasion network for which Lionel and his father Jorge Messi were convicted. FC Barcelona paid consultancy fees to this letterbox company for years.

In the spring of 2016, began an audit at FC Barcelona. Four officials from the Agencia Tributaria, the Spanish tax office, department of large-scale operations, had come to million-dollar payments of the club to the charitable foundation Lionel Messis.

As can be reconstructed from the documents of the platform Football Leaks, the inspectors demanded from the club all documents on payments from 2010 to 2013 to the Fundación Leo Messi - the foundation of the superstar, which boasts to help especially needy children. The officials demanded exact information about what Barcelona had paid for.

In addition, payments to the advisors of all the players of the club were targeted by tax officials. Under pressure from the tax authorities, the management of FC Barcelona reconstructed once again all consultancy fees that the club had paid for Lionel Messi in the previous seven years.

21 months probation

The matter was also tricky because the audit of FC Barcelona fell at a time when Lionel and Jorge Messi were charged by the Barcelona Public Prosecutor's Office on suspicion of tax evasion or the aid. A short time later, the trial began, the Barcelona district court finally sentenced the player to 21 months probation. His father initially received the same sentence.

The judges had come to the conclusion that between 2007 and 2009, Lionel and Jorge Messi "channeled more than € 10 million of advertising revenue into the Spanish tax office" through a strategy of concealment by companies in tax havens and € 4.1 million to the state Withheld tax revenues. In May, the Supreme Court of Spain lowered the sentence for Father Messi to 15 months, but since then Lionel and Jorge Messi have been convicted and convicted. You can no longer afford to go wrong with the tax authorities.

One of the mailbox companies in the tax evasion network of the Messis was called Sidefloor Limited. She was based in London and had signed advertising contracts for Lionel Messi, for which she received five to eight percent of the proceeds as commission. The remainder of the advertising revenue was led by Sidefloor to companies in South America controlled by the Messis. Managing director of Sidefloor was the Briton David Waygood, he led more than a hundred other companies.

The court says "dummy company"

But in real life, the man who had negotiated Lionel Messis advertising contracts was his father Jorge. The sidefloor was just a shell. A dummy company. This is the verdict of the District Court of Barcelona.

Sidefloor Limited suddenly reappeared in the spring of 2016 due to the auditing of FC Barcelona. Football Leaks' records show that Lionel Messi has 13 payments on his books for the period from June 2009 to June 2014. It's about 6,695,005 euros. Barcelona paid this sum to Sidefloor in London's Bedford Row -exactly the letterbox company that the Spanish judges described as one of the key building blocks in the Messis offshore system.

These payments raise questions. Did much of the 6.7 million euros from Sidefloor continue to flow to Father Messi for his consulting job? And if so, did Jorge Messi disclose this revenue to the tax authorities? It stands to reason that the Sidefloor should serve as for Lionel Messis advertising revenue also with the advisor fees to disguise the true recipient of the millions.

A company known as Lionel Messi

Since 2015, Jorge Messi has transferred his fees from FC Barcelona to a company whose CEO he is himself. Her name is Limecu, her name is composed of the initials Lionel Messi Cuccittini, as the star is called by its full name. Between October 2015 and June 2016, the date of its audit, Barcelona transferred 3,788,000 euros to Messis.

Formally, the consultancy fees with the Sidefloor seemed to be all-formal, and in the FC Barcelona agreements regarding Messi, the company from London always appeared as a contract partner until mid-2014. On October 10, 2008, the club and Sidefloor, represented by its CEO Waygood, apparently agreed on a consultancy agreement. A few months earlier, on 4 July, Lionel Messi had extended his contract until the end of June 2014, "with the help of Mr. Jorge Messis", as stated in the draft of the consultancy contract. For each year in which Lionel Messi played at FC Barcelona, ​​Sidefloor should therefore collect a commission of 400,000 euros from FC Barcelona "plus a sum equal to five percent of the premiums that the player receives".

This five-percent rule for Sidefloor was apparently still on 7 February 2013, when Lionel Messi renewed his contract again, this time until the end of June 2017. The revenue of the player increased massively, his annual fixed salary was henceforth at 18.6 Million Euros. His bonuses also shot up.

No one noticed that the name of the straw man was misspelled

And Sidefloor should always be there with five percent. Managing Director Waygood signed the new employment contract Lionel Messis under the heading "Adviser". In addition to Waygood, Father Messi also signed. It is striking that the FC Barcelona wrongly wrote Waygoods name at the place where the Englishman put his signature. There is "Waygoog". The club committed this mistake a second time in another document, but nobody seemed to mind - Waygood was probably just the straw man.

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On February 7, 2013, when Lionel Messi renewed his contract, FC Barcelona and Sidefloor CEO Waygood agreed to sign another agreement, a "service contract". A draft is available to SPIEGEL. According to Barcelona, ​​the mailbox company in London for "talent in Argentina" from now on annually transferred 280,000 euros, due in two installments. When an employee of FC Barcelona came across these payments in July 2016 in connection with the tax audit, he wrote an e-mail to the club's chief lawyer and lawyer Jorge Messis: "There are a few invoices on services that we've stumbled across 'I attach it to this letter.'

Whether and on which way the Sidefloor passed on the fees of the FC Barcelona to Jorge Messi, does not emerge from the Football Leaks documents. Perhaps the sidefloor also acted here only as a passage to conceal the cash flows. This is supported by the choice of their house bank. It was a branch of the Andorran Andbanc in Luxembourg, traditionally one of the most secretive financial centers in Europe. Nothing would have been easier for Sidefloor than to transfer the bulk of the money in the next step to a company under the control of Jorge Messi, without disturbing demands.

Salary always subsequently raised

Football Leaks' documents include a draft July 2013 agreement between the club, Lionel Messi and Sidefloor, which would allow the superstar to prematurely extend his contract until June 2017 by another year. Former President Sandro Rosell should sign for FC Barcelona, ​​for the Sidefloor, in the document referred to as "Agent", Managing Director Waygood.

Almost a year later, Messi's salary was to be massively raised again. This follows from a draft contract dated 14 May 2014. Signing this agreement should be the new Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, Lionel Messi himself as well as "agent" again Sidefloor CEO Waygood.

But when FC Barcelona drew up both treaty drafts, the Messi's straw man was long dead. He threw himself on a train near his home in County Kent on April 27, 2013.

At the time of his death, the British Financial Conduct Authority is said to have acted against a company called Waygoods. A coroner examined the circumstances of death and said that "stress at work" had been a motive for Waygood's suicide.

Neither FC Barcelona nor Jorge Messi commented on the proceedings for the consultant payments to Sidefloor. The successor of the late David Waygood as Managing Director of Sidefloor did not respond to a written request.

Source: spiegel

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