ROSARIO, Argentina – Police and tax inspectors carried out a court-ordered search on Wednesday at a casino attached to a hotel that is preparing to host the wedding of Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi, authorities told EFE, denying any connection with the coming nuptials.
The raid at the City Center hotel and casino complex in Rosario was authorized by federal Judge Marcelo Baylaque pursuant to an investigation of alleged tax evasion by magnate Cristobal Lopez.
“We are working exclusively in the casino. The hotel is not involved. It’s another commercial enterprise and has nothing to do with what we’re doing today,” the regional director of the AFIP tax agency, Carlos Vaudagna, told EFE.
“It was by chance that we came a few days before (Messi’s wedding),” the official said, adding that AFIP applied for the search warrant nearly a month earlier.
The search will not have any impact on Friday’s festivities, Vaudagna said.
Lopez faces several different criminal investigations, including one over alleged irregularities in the awarding of public works contracts during the 2007-2015 government of President Cristina Fernandez.
The search of the casino was prompted by allegations of attempts to evade taxes through manipulation of payouts.
Vaudagna mentioned the example of one casino patron “who won sums larger than 100,000 pesos ($6,024) more than 48 times” but submitted sworn financial disclosures that did not reflect those ostensible winnings.
Last week, police and AFIP agents conducted similar searches at a casino and horse-racing track in Buenos Aires also owned by Lopez.
Messi, 30, is to wed long-time girlfriend and fellow Rosario native Antonella Roccuzzo.
The 29-year-old Roccuzzo is the mother of the FC Barcelona striker’s two children.