Barcelona news

Messi Snr statement challenged

December 18, 2013
By Dermot Corrigan, Spain Correspondent

The statement put out by Leo Messi Management (LMM) to refute Spanish media claims linking Lionel Messi's father to an investigation into the laundering of drug money has been challenged, with El Mundo sticking to its story that Jorge Messi will have to answer questions about the organisation of last summer's 'Messi & Friends' game in Colombia.

Messi Snr money laundering denied

The Spanish newspaper claimed on Monday that Spanish prosecutors were looking into whether these exhibition matches had been used by Colombian criminals to launder drug money.

The Messis immediately criticised the story -- and released a statement on Wednesday which said neither Lionel nor Jorge Messi had anything to do with the organisation of the fixtures, and neither was under investigation for any crime.

The LMM statement said the 2013 ‘Messi & Friends’ games had been organised by an [unnamed] third-party company. The June 29 game in Medellin is thought to have been promoted by a company called Imagen Deportiva, which is headed by Argentine businessman Guillermo Marin, in association with Colombian partner companies on the ground.

El Mundo’s reporter in Colombia spoke with Luis Bedoya, president of the Federacion Colombiana de Futbol, who said he had been "surprised" by the choice of promoters.

“Nobody in football knew these promoters, that surprised us,” Bedoya said.

The Messis statement also said that Jorge’s only involvement in this Medellin match was to “guarantee a donation for a local NGO selected jointly by the Leo Messi Foundation and UNICEF” and that “$100,000 was donated” in this case.

Viviana Limpias, who works for UNICEF in Colombia, said they had not been involved.

“UNICEF did not receive any money,” Limpias said. “Nor did we participate in the choice of any NGO.”

Messi & Friends games were played in 2013 in Medellin, Lima [Peru], Chicago and Los Angeles. In summer 2012 a similar schedule saw matches in Bogota [Colombia], Cancun [Mexico] and Miami

El Mundo claims that both the 2012 and 2013 games in Colombia were played in half-empty stadiums, that the promoters of both games lost money, but that the Barcelona player was paid $2.5 million for his appearance last summer.

The 2013 game in Medellin began over 90 minutes late after angry fathers of children who had paid for a photo with Messi but did not receive it, prevented the bus carrying the players to the ground from leaving their hotel. Sergio Aguero, Martin Demichelis, Javier Mascherano, Eric Abidal, Pablo Aimar and Robinho also played in the match, which finished 9-6 to Messi’s side.

Both El Mundo and El Pais also report Jorge Messi may not have been interviewed by Spanish investigators on the case yet, but he will be soon.

El Pais says that, in testimony he gave to the investigators last month, Messi junior said he believed proceeds from the game had been donated to charity via his personal foundation, that his father looks after such affairs for him, and that Marin has been involved in organising these type of games for them since 2006.

Messi is currently in Argentina recovering from the string of muscle injuries which have so disrupted his 2013-14 season so far. El Mundo Deportivo reports that Barca president Sandro Rosell spoke with both Messis by telephone this week to discuss the reports, which the Catalan daily claim are part of a concerted campaign against the player led from Madrid.

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