Leo Messi was questioned by police investigating money laundering by Colombian drug cartels.
Detectives are probing claims huge sums of drugs money were laundered through charity football matches featuring the Barcelona star.
The four-times Fifa World Player of the Year gave a witness statement to Spanish police last week, as did fellow Barca stars Dani Alves, Javier Mascherano and goalie Jose Manuel Pinto.
None of the players are under suspicion and they are thought to be completely unaware of the alleged money laundering.
The probe centres around “Messi and Friends” football matches in South America and the US, which raised millions for good causes.
Colombian drugs gangs are suspected of using ticket sales to launder the proceeds of drug trafficking. A promotional company linked to the matches is under investigation. Charity rock concerts featuring South American singers are also being investigated.
Yesterday a source at the Civil Guard in Madrid confirmed the four Barca stars had given witness statements. The source added: “Messi and the others were among several people who have been interviewed as witnesses so far. They are not suspected of any involvement.”
The investigation is being overseen by judge Eduardo Lopez-Palop, at the Court of Investigation number 51 in Madrid.
A court source said: “This is a major investigation into allegations of money laundering of drug money centred around charity football matches and concerts.”
The Civil Guard source denied reports in Spain that Leo Messi’s dad, Jorge, was linked to the investigation.
National newspaper El Mundo claimed in a front page story that Jorge Messi was a suspect in the investigation. But the source said: “We have not spoken to Jorge Messi and it is wrong to describe him as a suspect.”
The Messi family were reportedly considering legal action.
Last night, Messi’s management company Leo Messi Management (LMM) issued a statement stressing that neither the player nor his father were involved in the organisation of the “Messi and Friends” matches.
Neither LMM nor the player’s charity Leo Messi Foundation benefited financially from the matches, they said.
“The organisation of these matches is arranged by a third party.
“That same promoter is the one who is responsible for contacting players and organising the matches.”
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