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Lionel Messi headed to trial? Judge refuses to drop tax fraud charges against him

Argentina's Lionel Messi reacts as Germany's players celebrate after winning in extra time during the World Cup final soccer match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, July 13, 2014. Germany won 1-0. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Argentina's Lionel Messi reacts as Germany's players celebrate after winning in extra time during the World Cup final soccer match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, July 13, 2014. Germany won 1-0. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)  (ap)

A Spanish judge rejected an appeal filed by Lionel Messi's lawyers on Friday to drop tax fraud charges against the Barcelona star.

The judge rebutted the counter-demand that Messi be excluded from the case against him and his father that says they withheld $5.3 million in unpaid taxes from 2007-09.

"In this type of crime, it is not necessary for someone to have complete knowledge of all the accounting and business operations nor the exact quantity, rather it is sufficient to be aware of the designs to commit fraud and consent to them," the judge said in a statement.

Messi and his father, Jorge Messi, have five days to appeal the ruling.

The same court in Gava, near Messi's home outside Barcelona, had ruled in July for the case to go forward against both Messi and his father despite the state prosecutor's recommendation that the Argentina star be excluded on the same grounds, now unsuccessfully argued by his lawyers.

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Messi's father made a payment of more than $6.6 million in August 2013 to cover unpaid taxes plus interest.

If Messi's lawyers lodge a second appeal, it will be heard by a higher court in Barcelona.

This is the second high-profile legal case that involves a Barcelona player. A court in Madrid is hearing a lawsuit that accuses former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell of misappropriating funds to hide the cost of the transfer fee paid to acquire Brazilian striker Neymar from Santos in 2013.

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