The name of Lionel Messi's Panamanian shell company sounds a little showy, but not entirely unfitting: Mega Star Enterprises.
The company is run by five unknown nominee directors, but the man who evidently is really in charge is the megastar of world football.
His name appears in a document dating from June 2013 discovered by a Spanish colleague working on the Prometheus project.
In this document, an employee of a Uruguayan law firm notifies the offshore provider Mossack Fonseca that the ultimate beneficiaries of Mega Star Enterprises are Lionel Andrés Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi.
Mega Star Enterprises is incorporated on February 8, 2012 by an offshore provider in Panama, and the shares are issued as anonymous bearer shares. Agents of the abovementioned Uruguayan law firm act on Messi's behalf.
Here is the first link to the charges in the indictment: according to these, the same law firm nine days later issues confirmation that Lionel Messi is the sole owner of the shell company Jenbril SA - which was at the centre of the existing tax evasion allegations.
So Mega Star and Jenbril, which is mentioned in the indictment, are looked after behind the scenes by the same Uruguayan law firm.
The second point of connection emerges in summer 2013, when the investigations into Messi are made public.
On June 12, 2013 the Spanish news agency EFE reports on the proceedings for the first time, and the international media follow suit.
The very next day, Lionel Messi's Uruguayan lawyers send an email to Mossack Fonseca because they want to change the offshore provider for Mega Star Enterprises, as discussed earlier on the telephone, according to the email.
|The Panama Papers; Pan Macmillan; Rs 499.|
In future Mossack Fonseca is to manage the shell company.
Mossack Fonseca insists that it be issued with a letter of indemnity, under which the law firm Mossack Fonseca and the nominee directors it uses shall be compensated for any "complaints, claims, actions, disputes, lawsuits, costs and expenses" related to Mega Star Enterprises.
The document, which we have among our files, is dated July 23, 2013 and bears signatures in the names of Lionel Andrés Messi and Jorge Horacio Messi.
It is hard to say from the documents what role Mega Star played in the tangled web of companies owned by the Messis. In one document, the general business purpose is given simply as "Investments".
But so far no specific contracts or deals have been found among the leaked data.
That, however, may be because the Messis seem to have had powers of attorney issued in relation to this company for themselves and other people involved - which would mean no documents whatsoever would need to go to Mossack Fonseca to be signed.
At any rate, in a letter dated June 23, 2013, "Horacio Jorge and Lionel Andrés Messi" assure Mossack Fonseca that, in the event of the termination of the business relationship with the Uruguayan law firm, they will help "to revoke each and every one of the powers of attorney which the company has assigned to third parties".
Anyone armed with one of these powers of attorney can sign contracts of any kind.
They could open accounts, for example, or purchase real estate. Yet from the outside it is impossible to find out who actually owns the company since the shares are held anonymously.
We see from our data that Mega Star Enterprises undergoes a change of ownership on December 1, 2015. The bearer shares originally issued are superseded by ordinary shares, which are held by Lionel Messi's father.
The Uruguayan law firm has one more request in this regard, though: an agent asks Mossfon the next day to confirm that the shareholders of the companies it manages do not appear in the Panamanian public register of companies.
If, says the agent, this happens as standard, could Mossfon please provide the lawyers with the necessary documents to prevent it?
(Printed with publisher's permission. Courtesy of Mail Today.)