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Spanish judge rejects prosecutor's request to drop tax fraud charges against Lionel Messi

A Spanish judge has rejected a prosecutor's request to drop charges of tax fraud against Lionel Messi and ordered the investigation into three cases of suspected unpaid taxes to proceed.

A court statement says there is "sufficient evidence" to believe the Argentina player "could have known and consented" to the creation of a fictitious corporate structure to avoid paying taxes on income made from Messi's image rights.

The statement was issued Monday by the court in Gava, Barcelona.

In June, Messi's public relations firm said a prosecutor had agreed to drop the tax fraud case against the player and his father.

Messi's father, Jorge Horacio Messi, is under investigation for an alleged 4 million euros ($5.3 million) in unpaid taxes from 2007-09.