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Messi's tax hearing put back

Barcelona's Lionel Messi speaks during a news conference ahead of the team's friendly soccer match against Malaysia XI on Saturday, in Petal
Barcelona's Lionel Messi speaks during a news conference ahead of the team's friendly soccer match against Malaysia XI on Saturday, in Petal

MADRID (Reuters) - Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and his father will appear in court to answer charges of tax evasion on September 27 after a hearing scheduled for next week was postponed, a court statement said on Tuesday.

The World Player of the Year and his father Jorge Messi, who both denied wrongdoing, allegedly hid more than four million euros ($5.3 million) by filing incomplete returns for the years 2006 to 2009.

They have already made a "corrective payment" to Spanish authorities of just over five million euros.

A lawyer for the Argentine pair asked for a September 17 hearing to be postponed as he had another commitment that day.

Jorge Messi will now appear at the court in Gava near Barcelona at 1000 local time (0800 GMT) 10 days later with Lionel due an hour later.

According to the prosecutor's office for tax crimes in Catalonia, income from the sale of Messi's image rights was hidden using a complex web of shell companies in Uruguay, Belize, Switzerland and United Kingdom.

He has been resident in Barcelona since joining the club's academy in 2000 and he gained Spanish citizenship five years later.

"I never take care of that (tax) stuff myself and neither does my father," Messi, 26, said in July. "We have our lawyers and our wealth managers to take care of that and we trust them and they will sort this out.

"The truth is I don't have a clue about all this and that is why we have people taking care of it."

($1 = 0.7546 euros)

(Reporting by Iain Rogers; editing by Tony Jimenez)

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