Earlier today, Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu was named a suspect in a tax fraud probe regarding the signing of Brazilian striker Neymar.
A national court judge accepted the request of a state prosecutor to include Bartomeu in the ongoing investigation into the Catalan club that began with former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell.
Neymar’s transfer fee has been under scrutiny since his arrival at the Camp Nou in June 2013.
Rosell resigned in January 2014 after the same national court judge agreed to hear a lawsuit brought by a club member into whether the then-Barcelona president misappropriated funds to hide the transfer cost paid to the Brazilian club Santos for Neymar.
Prior to today’s news, Barcelona released a statement saying it was “in complete disagreement” with the prosecutor’s request to name Bartomeu as a suspect and maintained the club’s innocence in the proceedings.
The national court judge will investigate whether the current club president defrauded Spain’s tax office of 2.8 million euros (£2.1 million) in 2014. He will also be investigated for alleged unpaid taxes for a payment of 5 million euros (£3.8 million) to the company N&N – which is owned by Neymar’s father, who is also the player’s agent – along with another 472,500 euros (£357,495) in image rights and agent fees.
During an interview with Spanish television today, Bartomeu claimed there were jealous reasons behind the latest accusations.
“What’s going on? Neymar had two offers, one from Madrid and one from Barca,” the Barcelona president said. “Neymar was playing well a year ago and out comes the complaint [from a Barcelona member claiming Rosell misappropriated funds in the transfer].”
“Maybe somebody didn’t like it. Now he’s playing well again and there’s another judicial action.”
“Barca have done nothing wrong. Just brought Neymar here. We’ll keep saying that the cost was 57 million euros (£43.1 million).
When pressed further on whether or not he believed Real Madrid were behind the latest court actions, Bartomeu responded: “I don’t want to go that far. Neymar’s father said it, that Madrid were behind it and that Neymar going to Barcelona didn’t go down well.”
“Every time he plays well, they charge us. It’s the big question. What’s going on?”
“Maybe we signed Neymar and that unleashed the actions of someone who didn’t want him to go to Barcelona. Someone has crossed a red line and we need to say, ‘enough’. There are too many connected things and it needs to be stopped. We haven’t done anything wrong.”
Bartomeu is scheduled to appear in court on February 13.
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