Brazil star Neymar in court on multimillion-pound corruption charges

The football star denies all charges

Tales Azzoni
Tuesday 18 October 2022 10:16 BST
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Brazil and PSG star Neymar arrives for trial on fraud charges

A few hours after scoring the winning goal in Paris Saint-Germain’s (PSG) victory over Marseille in the French league, Neymar arrived in court in Spain to face trial for alleged irregularities involving his transfer to Barcelona in 2013.

The footballer’s parents, as well as former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell and representatives for both the Spanish club and Brazilian team Santos, also appeared in court after a complaint brought by Brazilian investment group DIS regarding the amount involved in the player’s transfer.

Prosecutors have charged the 30-year-old Neymar, whose full name is Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, and his father with corruption, and have asked for a prison sentence of up to two years, although any jail time would likely be suspended.

The Brazil forward arrived at the court in Barcelona wearing sunglasses and a black suit and tie. Neymar’s mother and his father – who also is his agent – were among those arriving alongside the player.

The defendants, who have denied wrongdoing, sat near each other to hear the opening arguments in the trial, which comes nearly a month before the World Cup opens on 20 November in Qatar, and is expected to last until the end of October.

Neymar left the Barcelona court about two hours after arriving, without talking to reporters. The player and the rest of the defendants had to be in court for the first day of the trial, but the player is only expected to testify on Friday.

On Sunday night, Neymar scored his ninth French league goal of the season in first-half stoppage time to lead PSG to a 1-0 win over Marseille in French football’s biggest game.

DIS has accused the player and his father of corruption and fraud, and has asked that they be given a five-year prison sentence and that they pay compensation of €34m (£29.5m) as well as a fine of €195m (£169m) to be paid to the Spanish state.

Prosecutors are seeking a fine of €10m (£8.6m) for Neymar and his father. They are also seeking a five-year prison term for Rosell, on fraud and corruption charges, plus a fine of €10m.

Neymar’s representatives have argued that the crime of corruption between individuals is not punishable in Brazil, which is where they say the transactions originally took place. They said that according to Spanish law, a crime cannot be punished in Spain if it did not happen in both territories.

DIS was entitled to 40 per cent of Neymar’s transfer fee, but said it received a smaller amount because part of the transfer fee was concealed. Prosecutors said those involved had tried to hide the real cost of the transfer in order to pay a lower commission to the investment group.

The lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that DIS only received its due percentage of the €17m that Barcelona and Santos initially announced as the transfer fee between the clubs, while the real cost was about €82m. An investigative judge in Spain has already said that the real cost was at least €83.3m.

Neymar and his father previously appeared in court in Madrid a few years ago in relation to the accusations.

Neymar celebrates scoring the winners against Marseille on Sunday
Neymar celebrates scoring the winners against Marseille on Sunday (AP)

The player made his highly anticipated move to Spain at the age of 21. He helped Barcelona win the club’s last Champions League title in 2015, and eventually transferred to PSG in 2017.

Neymar’s move from Santos also got Barcelona in trouble with Spain’s tax office. In 2016, the Catalan club paid a fine of €5.5m (£4.7m now) to settle a separate case brought by the authorities. In that settlement, the club acknowledged it had made “an error in the fiscal planning of the player’s transfer”.

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