Brazilian star player Neymar could be in trouble after a Brazilian investment firm called him out and may be facing a five-year prison sentence when he stands trial next week on fraud and corruption charges relating to his transfer to Barcelona from Santos in 2013. DIS, which owned 40% of the rights to Brazil forward at the time, argues it lost out because the transfer fee was undervalued.
30-year-old Neymar has denied the allegations but lost an appeal in Spain’s High Court in 2017, leading to the trial being brought by Spanish prosecutors. The former Barcelona star player will have to appear in person for the first day of the trial in Barcelona on Monday, the court said, but it is unclear if he will be asked to stay for the entire hearing which could last two weeks.
The player’s parents are the other defendants and the two clubs, former Barcelona presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell, and former Santos president Odilio Rodrigues. Rosell has also previously denied any wrongdoing. In a statement, Baker McKenzie, who is Neymar’s family layer claimed that Spanish courts “lack jurisdiction to prosecute the Neymar family and their company N&N” because the acts were committed by Brazilian nationals outside Spanish territory.
They also point out that the alleged crimes are not punishable in Brazil. DIS acquired a percentage of Neymar’s rights when he was 17, in exchange for 2m euros. Barcelona said at the time of Neymar’s move that the transfer fee was 57.1m euros, of which 40m euros was paid to his family.
The investment firm received a 40% share of the remaining 17.1m euros that was paid to Brazilian club Santos. “Neymar’s rights have not been sold to the highest bidder,” DIS lawyer Paulo Nasser told a news conference in Barcelona on Thursday. “There were clubs that offered up to 60m euros.”
As well as the five-year jail term demand, DIS is also requesting prison sentences for Rosell and Bartomeu, and a 149m euro fine. The prosecutors in Spain want a two-year prison term for Neymar and the payment of a 10m euros fine and a five-year jail term for Rosell, plus an 8.4m euro fine for Barcelona.
Baker McKenzie’s statement added that the Neymar family have been charged with “corruption between private individuals” which applies to “competition of products and services between companies” whereas Neymar “is not a service or a commodity”. Finally, the statement added that the transfer had not broken any Fifa rules.