Brazilian authorities freeze Neymar’s assets

Neymar celebrating a goal. (Manu Fernandez/AP)

SAO PAULO — Brazilian authorities have blocked assets of Barcelona star Neymar, including a yacht, a jet and several properties worth almost $50 million.

A Sao Paulo federal court rejected an appeal from the Brazilian striker last week and started issuing warrants to freeze the assets worth 192 million reals (almost $50 million), Brazilian media reported on Monday.

Last year, Neymar, his family and related businesses were found guilty of evading 63 million reals in taxes (almost $16 million) between 2011 and 2013 when he was playing for Brazilian club Santos. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The 23-year-old Neymar used the jet to travel to Brazil for World Cup qualifying matches and holidays.

Iagaro Jung Martins, an auditor with Brazil's federal tax agency, told The Associated Press that Neymar isn't likely to go to jail if he pays what regulators say he owes.

"He can still appeal that decision, but it is a step forward," Martins told the AP. "Nothing changed to what was in place last year: if he pays what he owes, the case is closed. Our legislation isn't too harsh."

The assets seizure is the latest in a streak of bad news for the Brazilian star off the pitch.

On Feb. 2 Neymar and his father were questioned for three hours in a Madrid court about the player's transfer to Barcelona. The case was brought by Grupo Sonda, which invested in Neymar early in his career and was allegedly entitled to 40 per cent of the total transfer amount.

Barcelona maintains the deal cost the club 57.1 million euros (then $74 million). Santos officially received a payment of 17.1 million euros ($18.5 million), with the remaining 40 million euros ($55.5 million) going to a company owned by Neymar's father, Neymar Santos. But investigations in Spain later showed that Barcelona spent nearly 83.3 million euros ($90 million) to acquire Neymar.

Former and current Barcelona presidents and representatives of Santos were also questioned. The Brazilian club also claims to have been hurt by the transfers. All parties denied any wrongdoing.