Lionel Messi's preparations for the World Cup have been thrown into turmoil with the news that the Spanish Guardia Civil's Central Operations Unit, have requested the bank details and financial transactions of the Leo Messi foundation, amidst further allegations of tax evasion and money laundering as reported by Spain's El Pais.
Messi is currently with the Argentine squad in Brazil ahead of their World Cup opener against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday, and with the pressure already on his shoulders to deliver a winning campaign for his country, this is the last thing the Barcelona playmaker needs at this point in time.
The Argentinian superstar has already been under scrutiny from the Hacienda in Spain for non-payment of tax, however the latest investigation by the elite Operations Unit of the Civil Guard is focused around his Leo Messi Foundation, and in particular certain events that took place in 2012-2013 involving a series of high profile charity football matches that could have been used as a cover for drug traffickers laundering money.
The lead investigators have apparently sent a request to Eduardo López-Palop, the Madrid judge that opened the original case against Messi, to get access to all the transactions from the accounts relating to the Leo Messi Foundation since 2011.
The criminal investigation is reported to span several countries, including China and a number of offshore tax havens. A number of companies on the island of Curacao, Hong Kong and Panama, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Spain and the United States also form part of this potentially damaging investigation.
El Pais reports, that the investigating officers want to question Argentinean national, Guillermo Marin, a friend of the footballers father that was involved in arranging a series of charity football matches and allegedly received five transfers amounting to millions of Euros that were hidden from the tax authorities.
Marin is the owner of a company called Imagen Deportiva which is registered in Curacao and arranged two of the charity matches in Columbia during the period which coincides with the investigation.
Their belief is that considering the nature of the events, and where they were arranged, that the parties involved are operating as a dubious front.
The Civil Guard believe that these events featuring Messi and team mates like Pinto, Alves and Mascherano, were arranged at stadiums that have the capacity to hold thousands of spectators as they provide the perfect platform to launder vast amounts of money.
Apart from the Foundation accounts, the authorities are also requesting details of another company based in the United States which arranged three events in the U.S. of which two went ahead while a third at the LA Memorial Coliseum was cancelled, and the authorities want to know why.
Guillermo Marín is also apparently a representative of Society Sports Image, a U.S. based company that was involved in the arrangement of these events in North America and the Spanish authorities have again requested for the release of bank details and transactions relating to activity around the same time.
Other companies in Peru, Mexico, Panama and Hong Kong, that arranged more of these events for the Leo Messi Foundation are also linked to Marin, and also received large undisclosed payments from the foundation.
The Spanish authorities are leading the international investigation because Messi resides in Barcelona and is required to declare all earnings in Spain and abroad to the Spanish tax office, the Hacienda.
By what has been reported, the investigation has been extended very deep into a number of international channels and could prove extremely damaging for Messi, a distraction the play-maker certainly doesn't need at this time.