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Football Star Messi, His Father to Stand Trial on Tax Fraud Charges

FILE - Argentine forward and captain Lionel Messi reacts after losing the 2014 FIFA World Cup final football match between Germany and Argentina, 1-0, following extra time at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 13, 2014.

Argentina and FC Barcelona football star Lionel Messi and his father, Jorge, will stand trial in Spain on three counts of tax fraud.

The two are accused of defrauding the Spanish state of about $4.5 million (4.2 million euros) in taxes from 2007 to 2009.

Court documents made public Thursday show that the judge in charge of the case rejected a request to drop Messi, a four-time world player of the year, from the case and clear him of wrongdoing.

After an appeal filed by Messi's lawyers, prosecutors had said earlier this week that Messi was not fully aware of his father's illegal activities and should not have been charged, but the state attorney's office said the evidence was sufficient to name the player as a defendant in the case.

Messi, 28, and his father initially denied the accusations and blamed a former financial adviser for the discrepancy. Subsequently, Jorge Messi admitted that he was in charge of his son's finances and pleaded for charges against his son to be dropped.

In August 2013, Messi's father made a payment of more than $5.6 million (5 million euros) to cover unpaid dues, taxes and interest.

No date for the trial has been set. If found guilty, Messi could be sentenced to nearly two years in prison. The public prosecutor recommended a jail sentence of 18 months and fines of more than $2.5 million (2 million euros) for Jorge Messi.