Neymar trial opens in Barcelona ahead of World Cup
With the World Cup barely a month away, Brazilian superstar Neymar goes on trial in Spain Monday over alleged irregularities in his transfer to Barcelona nearly a decade ago.
The 30-year-old, wearing sunglasses and a dark suit, waved to the press as he arrived with his parents at the Provincial Court of Barcelona at around 9:45 am.
The high-profile trial is the culmination of a years-long legal saga over his 2013 transfer from the Brazilian club Santos to Barcelona.
Neymar then joined Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain in a world record 222 million euro ($214 million) transfer in 2017.
He is one of nine defendants on trial on corruption-related charges, among the
his parents and their N&N company, which manages his affairs.
All three are facing charges of business corruption.
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, but prosecutors believe it was at least 83 million euros.
The club said it paid 40 million euros to N&N and 17.1 million to Santos, of which 6.8 million was given to DIS.
But DIS alleges that Neymar, Barcelona and the Brazilian club colluded to mask the true cost of the deal.
Among the other defendants are two former Barca presidents, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, and ex-Santos boss Odilio Rodrigues Filho.
– ‘Complicity to defraud’ –
Neymar, who came to Barcelona just hours after scoring the winning goal against Marseille in a Ligue 1 match on Sunday, will testify on either October 21 or October 28, but it is not known if he will have to be physically present. The trial is due to end on October 31.
If convicted, he could face two years in jail and a 10-million-euro ($9.7 million) fine.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez will take the stand on Tuesday by videoconference to give his opinion of how a 2011 secret pre-contract deal between Barca and Neymar influenced the market.
“Neymar Junior, 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,” said DIS lawyer Paulo Nasser on Thursday.
DIS is seeking to recover 35 million euros.
– Set for World Cup –
Neymar’s lawyers insist their client is innocent, saying the 40 million euros 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.