Madrid (AFP) – Neymar could follow Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi to court after Spanish prosecutors asked for the Brazilian striker to be tried over his murky multi-million-euro transfer to the Catalan giants.
Prosecutors from Spain’s top criminal court accuse the 24-year-old, his father, Barca’s ex-president Sandro Rosell and the club itself of concealing the true cost of his 2013 transfer deal from Brazil’s Santos to FC Barcelona, a judicial source said Tuesday.
If the case comes to trial, Neymar will be the second Barcelona star to take the stand after Lionel Messi appeared in court earlier this month on charges of tax fraud related to income earned from his image rights.
Brazilian investment fund DIS, which held 40 percent of Neymar’s sporting rights when he played at Santos, claims it was cheated of its real share of the transfer due to parallel contracts that Barcelona and Santos allegedly used to hide the total cost.
They also believe a pre-contract agreement between Neymar and Barca impeded other clubs from making offers for the player, affecting the value of the transfer fee.
The deal was originally valued at 57.1 million euros ($64.9 million) by Barca, 40 million of which was paid to the N&N company owned by the player’s father.
Santos — where Neymar started his career — received 17.1 million, 6.8 million euros of which went to DIS.
However, Spanish judicial authorities have estimated the number of simultaneous deals in the transfer amounted to at least 83.3 million euros — with the difference allegedly going to Neymar and his family, and Santos.
Rosell resigned from Barcelona in 2014 over the affair.
The club was also indicted for alleged tax fraud linked to the signing, and made a voluntary tax payment of 13.5 million euros.
So far though no trial has been held.
– ‘Corruption’, ‘fraud’ –
The Brazilian football star and his father have in the past defended themselves in the media.
“Before saying nonsense — that we hid this, or hid that — they should prove it,” Neymar told Brazilian TV station Globo in February, when he was called to give evidence to a judge in Madrid.
“My father is doing everything to ensure that I can just focus on playing football. He handles the books. But in the moment when you see someone you love suffering, it starts to hurt.”
Prosecutors want Neymar, his father Neymar Da Silva Santos, Rosell and FC Barcelona itself to be tried for “corruption,” said the judicial source, who refused to be named.
If the case comes to trial, Neymar faces a six-month to two-year prison sentence, as well as fines.
Prosecutors also want Rosell, FC Barcelona, Brazil’s Santos and its president to be tried for “fraud.”
Neymar’s mother Nadine could also be tried for having profited financially from the alleged fraudulent transfer.
The player gave evidence to a judge in Spain in February as part of the probe into his transfer, as did his father.
That same month, investigators in Brazil also launched proceedings against the football star and his father over the same case.
Brazil’s federal prosecution service accused them of forging contracts to pay less tax.
But a judge subsequently threw the tax fraud charges out, arguing that the case could not go ahead while tax authorities had yet to complete their probe.
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