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Looming trial could get Messi

Soccer

Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi's tax fraud trial has been set to run from May 31 to June 3, conflicting with the start of the centennial Copa America in the United States.

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The Copa America Centenario will kick off June 3, meaning the five-time world player of the year may not make it in time for Argentina’s opening game.

The full Copa America schedule won’t be known until the draw on February 21.

Messi’s lawyers are expected to try to change the trial dates.

The Barcelona forward is already expected to have a shorter preparation ahead of the tournament if his side reaches the Champions League final, which is scheduled for May 28 in Milan.

Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, have been charged with three counts of tax fraud and could be sentenced to nearly two years in prison if found guilty.

They are accused of defrauding Spain’s tax office of $US4.4 million in unpaid taxes from 2007-09.

The case is centered on the alleged unlawful activities of Messi’s father, but authorities said the Barcelona player knew enough to also be named in the case.

The attorney’s office called for a prison sentence of 22 months and 15 days for Messi and his father, along with a fine in the amount defrauded, payment of all legal proceedings and the loss of any possible tax benefits for a year and a half.

-AP

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