Lionel Messi and his father Jorge are being investigated by Spanish authorities for allegedly defrauding the Spanish public purse of more than 4m euros (£3.2m).

According to officials in Spain, the Barcelona striker and his father, both originally from Argentina, are alleged to have filed fraudulent tax returns for 2007, 2008 and 2009. A lawsuit was filed by prosecutor Raquel Amado in Catalonia on Wednesday, alleging three offences against the treasury.

The 25-year-old Messi, widely regarded as the world's greatest player and recipient of the FIFA player of the year for the past four seasons running, has yet to comment on the allegations.

Messi, whose salary at Barcelona is reported to be more than 16m euros a year, is accused with his father of selling the footballer's image using companies abroad, thus avoiding tax in Spain. If found guilty, the star footballer could face a custodial sentence and a large fine, with Spanish news agency EFE suggesting he could spend up to six years in prison.

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  • FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BENFICA

    Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi leaves the pitch on a stretcher after being injured during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO / JOSEP LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BENFICA

    Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts after being injured during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BENFICA

    Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi leaves the pitch on a stretcher after being injured during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE,LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona reacts on the pitch after being injured during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica at Nou Camp on December 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

  • FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05: Lionel Messi of Barcelona reacts after being fouled during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium on December 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. Messi was taken off the pitch. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

  • FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona reacts on the pitch after being injured during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica at Nou Camp on December 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

  • FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05: Lionel Messi of Barcelona lines up a free kick during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium on December 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. Messi was taken off the pitch. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

  • FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05: Lionel Messi of Barcelona reacts after being fouled during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium on December 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. Messi was taken off the pitch. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

  • FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BENFICA

    Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi leaves the pitch on a stretcher after being injured during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO / JOSEP LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona reacts on the pitch after being injured during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica at Nou Camp on December 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

  • FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BENFICA

    Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts after being injured during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BENFICA

    Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) vies with Benfica's Brazilian goalkeeper Artur Moraes during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BENFICA

    Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) is injured while vying with Benfica's Brazilian goalkeeper Artur Moraes during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BENFICA

    Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi leaves the pitch on a stretcher after being injured during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO / JOSEP LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BENFICA

    Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi lies on the pitch after being injured during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BENFICA

    Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts after being injured during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05: Lionel Messi (L) of Barcelona injures himself while trying to score his record goal after passing by goalkeeper Artur of SL Benfica during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium on December 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. Messi was taken off the pitch. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

  • FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BENFICA

    Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi leaves the pitch on a stretcher after being injured during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BENFICA

    Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi leaves the pitch on a stretcher after being injured during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BENFICA

    Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi lies on the pitch after being injured during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BENFICA

    Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (C) lies on the pitch after being injured during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO / JOSEP LAGO (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona leaves the pitch on a stretcher after being injured during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica at Nou Camp on December 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

  • FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona is seen by the FC Barcelona doctor after being injured during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica at Nou Camp on December 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

  • FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05: FC Barcelona doctors run towards Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona as he reacts on the pitch after being injured during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica at Nou Camp on December 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

  • FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona leaves the pitch on a stretcher after being injured during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica at Nou Camp on December 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

  • FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona leaves the pitch on a stretcher after being injured during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica at Nou Camp on December 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

  • FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05: Lionel Messi of Barcelona reacts aftre being fouled during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium on December 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. Messi was taken off the pitch. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

  • FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League

    BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona leaves the pitch on a stretcher after being injured during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Barcelona and SL Benfica at Nou Camp on December 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

  • FBL-EUR-C1-BARCELONA-BENFICA

    Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi leaves the pitch on a stretcher after being injured during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs SL Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on December 5, 2012. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Lionel Messi

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina is placed on a stretcher after suffering an injury during a group G Champions League soccer match against Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

  • Lionel Messi

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina is placed on a stretcher after suffering an injury during a group G Champions League soccer match against Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

  • Lionel Messi

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina lies on the pitch during a group G Champions League soccer match against Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

  • Lionel Messi

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina lies on the pitch during a group G Champions League soccer match against Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

  • Lionel Messi

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina reacts after suffering an injury during a group G Champions League soccer match against Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

  • Lionel Messi, Artur Moraes

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina duels for the ball against Benfica's goalkeeper Artur Moraes, from Brazil during a group G Champions League soccer match against Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

  • Lionel Messi

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi, from Argentina, reacts after been injured during a group G Champions League soccer match against Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

  • Lionel Messi

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina reacts after he was injured during a group G Champions League soccer match against Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

  • Lionel Messi

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina reacts after suffering an injury during a group G Champions League soccer match against Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

  • Lionel Messi, Nemanja Matic

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina, left, duels for the ball against Benfica's Nemanja Matic from Serbia during a group G Champions League soccer match against Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

  • Lionel Messi, Nemanja Matic

    FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi from Argentina vies for the ball against Benfica's Nemanja Matic from Serbia during a group G Champions League soccer match against Benfica at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)