Arguably the World’s best footballer, Lionel Messi has again found himself at the center of a controversy, after allegedly receiving A?2.4 million to lay the foundation stone at a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations stadium, the Port-Gentil stadium in Gabon, as a guest of President Ali Bongo.
The 4-time Ballon D’Or winner, missed FC Barcelona‘s pre-season tour of the US to go visit the site in Gabon. However, according to reports in France Football, the 28-year-old received A?2.4 million as compensation for his visit to the former French colony. Later, the Argentine striker also inaugurated a hotel owned by the Bongo family, while showing full support to their regime.
Ali Bongo is accused of corruption, money laundering and electoral fraud
President Ali Bongo is linked with corruption and human rights abuses, and an opposition source was quoted as saying: ‘People are outraged about this’, ‘Messi should do a bit of research into what Bongo represents.’
The FC Barcelona striker, made the trip to Gabon with former Barcelona team-mate Deco. However, Bongo came to the defense of Messi, he said:
‘When I was in Barcelona a few years ago, I met Messi who had told me that he would come to visit me in Libreville.
‘It’s a promise he made me. He is a man of honour who just kept his word.’
The Bongo president is accused of stealing money from the nation’s reserves to use it for his own personal gains, while also having committed electoral fraud in the elections for Presidency. The Bongo family, is reported to own across 39 homes, across France, and is regularly under investigation by the Police in France.
A PowerIndex reasearch organization report reads: ‘The Bongo family is alleged to have skimmed off 25 percent of the oil-rich nation’s gross domestic product over the years, and Omar was said to one of the world’s wealthiest heads of state.
‘In 1999, a US Senate investigation discovered 130 million dollars in his personal bank accounts at Citibank, sourced from Gabon’s public finances.
‘A French investigation into Elf Aquitaine was told that Omar received 50 million euros a year from the oil company. Other inquiries turned up fleets of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and limousines in France, along with huge real estate holdings.’
Messi is currently under the scanner for an alleged tax evasion
Lionel Messi along with his father Jorge Horacio Messi, have been accused of allegedly evading tax of around A?3 million from the Spanish government, with the use of Shell companies, in between 2007-09. The authorities alleged that the duo have used shell companies in Uruguay, Switzerland and the UK to sell the footballer’s image rights, in a bid to avoid reporting the same earning in Spain. However, Messi and his father have pleaded to be innocent and free of any such mal-practice.
Messi has struggled in his national colors, having lost the World Cup finals and the Copa America finals in successive years, and has been questioned by a section of the Argentina fans. The footballer, who is known for his humble behavior and on-field heroics, has been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons, something which he would like to avoid in the future.