Five years after Neymar ended his career at Barcelona, the Brazilian striker will be prosecuted in Spain to investigate if he and others committed fraud when he joined the Catalan club from Santos in 2013. Neymar, his father, and former leaders of both Barcelona and Brazilian club Santos face fraud and unfair competition charges in a trial that begins Monday in Barcelona.
They are charged with hiding the real cost of the deal to avoid paying the money that DIS, a private Brazilian firm, claims is due as the owner of 40% of Neymar’s player rights.
The request by DIS is for five years in prison for Sandro Rosell, Josep Bartomeu, and Neymar’s father also named Neymar, who serves as his agent.
All of the defendants have said they did nothing wrong.
The World Cup will begin in Qatar on November 21 and the trial is expected to extend through the end of October. Neymar will be required to attend unless the judge grants him leave to miss a session.
According to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, the actual cost of the deal was closer to 82 million euros ($79.7 million) than the 17 million euros ($16.5 million) that Barcelona and Santos first disclosed as the clubs’ transfer price. The real cost, according to a Spanish investigating judge, was at least 83.3 million euros ($81 million).
According to Paulo M. Nasser, a lawyer for DIS, “Neymar the player, with the complicity of his parents, of Barcelona and its executives at the time, and Santos at a later date, defrauded the legitimate economic interests of DIS, cheating not only the company but also violating the confidence that had been placed in him.”
Rosell is charged by DIS and Spanish state prosecutors with giving Neymar and his family an additional 40 million euros ($38.8 million), of which DIS received nothing, to ensure his transfer to Camp Nou. Nasser equated the payment to a “bribe” that interfered with the free market and decreased the chance of Neymar signing with other teams.
While Neymar was playing for Santos, Real Madrid made a strong effort to sign him, and Madrid president Florentino Pérez is scheduled to be at the trial via video conference.
In addition, Santos is charged with hiding an extra 12 million euros ($11.6 million) that it got from Barcelona in exchange for Neymar, according to DIS, the owner of a chain of supermarkets in the So Paulo region.
Two allegedly fake contracts, one for a match between Barcelona and Santos and the other giving Barcelona first choice over the transfer of additional Santos players, according to DIS, contained extra money that was hidden.
DIS claimed that in 2009 when it paid Neymar’s family 5 million Brazilian reals, which is now the equivalent of 2 million euros ($1.94 million), it had the right to get 40% of any future Neymar transfer. The day before Neymar made his debut with Santos’ main team, according to Nasser, the Neymar family and the Delcir and Idi Sonda brothers, who run DIS, signed that contract.
Additionally, Nasser is the representative of a Brazilian players’ association, which raised the 0.8% of transfers required to support a fund for current and former players. Since, in their opinion, the majority of the alleged irregularities took place in the European country, Nasser claimed that DIS was pursuing justice in Spain rather than Brazil.
Neymar is being sought after by state prosecutors for a two-year jail sentence as well as a fine of 10 million euros ($9.7 million). Similar to the case in the tax fraud case against Lionel Messi, Neymar’s former Barcelona teammate and his father, sentences of less than two years for first offenses can be suspended in Spain.
Prosecutors are seeking the same 10 million euro fine and five years in jail for Rosell. Odilio Rodrigues, the previous leader of Santos, is expected to serve three years in prison. The prosecution is not investigating Bartomeu, who took over as president of Barcelona when Rosell resigned as the Neymar deal came under heightened scrutiny.
The 30-year-old Neymar and his father are being sought after by DIS lawyers for five-year prison sentences. DIS wants five years in jail for Rosell and Bartomeu. Additionally, DIS is requesting that the defendants pay the Spanish government fine of 195 million euros ($189.5 million) and compensation in the amount of 34 million euros ($33 million).
At the age of 21, Neymar made his much-awaited transfer to Spain to great fanfare. While Neymar thrilled fans with outrageous goals and helped in the club’s final Champions League victory, he also became a constant source of frustration for the team, notably the soap opera departure to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 that Bartomeu did his best to stop.
Barcelona also had issues with the Spanish tax authority when Neymar left Santos. To settle a separate case brought by authorities in 2016, Barcelona paid a fine of 5.5 million Euros. The club acknowledged that it had “an error in the fiscal planning of the player’s transfer” as part of that settlement.