Neymar stands trial for alleged fraud in Barcelona transfer

The Brazilian forward faces a two-year prison term in Spain for alleged irregularities in his 2013 transfer to Barcelona.

Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian forward Neymar gestures as he leaves after attending a hearing at the courthouse in Barcelona
Neymar gestures as he leaves a hearing at the court in Barcelona [Josep Lago/AFP]

Brazil superstar Neymar has said his manager father always handled his contracts as he took the stand at his trial in Spain over alleged irregularities in his transfer to Barcelona in 2013.

“My father has always been in charge” of contract negotiations, the 30-year-old told the Barcelona court hearing the case on Tuesday. “I sign what he tells me to.”

He also said he did not remember if he took part in the negotiations which led to an agreement sealed in 2011 with Barcelona over his transfer two years later to the Catalan side from Brazilian club Santos.

Spanish prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison term for Neymar, a key member of the Brazil team that will be heading to the World Cup in Qatar next month, and the payment of a 10-million-euro ($9.8m) fine.

The trial is the culmination of a years-long legal saga over Neymar’s 2013 move from Santos to Barcelona.

He then joined Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in a world record 222-million-euro ($215m) transfer in 2017.

Corruption-related charges

Neymar is one of nine defendants on trial on corruption-related charges, among them his parents and their N&N company, which manages his affairs.

He had originally been set to testify on either October 21 or 28, but the Barcelona court hearing the case agreed to bring forward his hearing to avoid a clash with his commitments with PSG.

The player spent two hours at the court on Monday on the opening day of the trial before he was excused by the judge after his lawyers argued he needed to rest after playing on Sunday night.

Brazil's Neymar to stand trial in a corruption case over his transfer to FC Barcelona
Neymar poses for a photograph with a fan as he arrives at court in Barcelona [Nacho Doce/Reuters]

The player scored the only goal of the Ligue 1 match against Marseille.

Investigators began probing the transfer after a 2015 complaint filed by DIS, a Brazilian company that owned 40 percent of the player’s sporting rights when he was at Santos.

Barcelona said the transfer cost 57.1 million euros ($55.3m), but prosecutors believe it was at least 83 million euros ($80.5m).

The club said it paid 40 million euros ($38.8m) to N&N and 17.1 million euros ($16.5m) to Santos, of which 6.8 million euros ($6.5m) was given to DIS.

But DIS alleges that Neymar, Barcelona and the Brazilian club colluded to mask the true cost of the deal.

Other defendants

Among the other defendants are two former Barca presidents, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, and ex-Santos boss Odilio Rodrigues Filho.

DIS is seeking to recover 35 million euros ($33.9m).

The company’s lawyer Paulo Nasser said last week that Neymar had “with the complicity of his parents and FC Barcelona and its directors at the time, and Santos FC at a later stage, defrauded DIS of its legitimate financial interests”.

Neymar’s lawyers insist their client is innocent, saying the 40 million euros ($38.8m) was a “legal signing bonus which is normal in the football transfer market”.

They have said Spanish authorities lack jurisdiction to hear the case since the transfer involved Brazilian nationals in Brazil.

The trial is due to end on October 31.

Neymar’s abrupt departure for PSG five years ago sparked a string of legal disputes, with Barcelona withholding its contract extension bonus and suing the player for breach of contract, as Neymar countersued.

‘Amicable’ settlement

Both sides eventually reached an “amicable” out-of-court settlement in 2021.

The footballer is having one of his best seasons since he joined PSG.

His goal against Marseille on Sunday was his ninth league goal of the season, and he has seven assists in 11 Ligue 1 matches.

Neymar is expected to play a key role for Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar, as the South American giants seek to win the trophy for the first time since 2002, and the sixth in total.

He will lead the Selecao into their Group G opener against Serbia on November 24.

Source: AFP