Prosecutors seek two-year prison term for Neymar over transfer

Neymar. (Manu Fernandez/AP)

MADRID — Spanish prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison sentence and a $10.6 million fine for Neymar on corruption charges because of alleged irregularities during his transfer from Brazilian club Santos to Barcelona.

Prosecutors said Wednesday they are seeking the same punishment for Neymar’s father and former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell. Rosell is facing other three years for fraud charges.

They are all set to stand trial after a complaint brought by Brazilian investment group DIS, which was entitled to 40 per cent of Neymar’s transfer from Santos in 2013 but said it received a smaller compensation because part of the transfer fee was concealed.

DIS has demanded a five-year prison sentence for Neymar and his parents, and an eight-year sentence for Rosell and current Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu. It also seeks a fine from Barcelona that could reach more than $200 million, and wants Neymar to be temporarily suspended from playing if found guilty.

A judge this month accepted charges against Bartomeu, but prosecutors spared him on Wednesday, saying he did not directly participate in the negotiations related to Neymar’s transfer.

The judge also accepted fraud charges against Barcelona, Santos and a former president of the Brazilian club, Odilio Rodrigues.

Rodrigues will face a three-year prison sentence, while prosecutors seek a fine of $8.9 million from Barcelona and $7.4 million from Santos.

Prosecutors also said Rosell, Rodrigues, Barcelona and Santos must repay nearly $3.4 million to DIS.

Prosecutors want a one-year prison sentence and a $10.6 million fine for Neymar’s mother, who co-owns one of her husband’s companies representing Neymar. Prosecutors want the company to pay a fine of $1.4 million.

Neymar and his father, who acts as the player’s agent, appeared in a Madrid court in February to defend themselves. All other parties being accused by prosecutors also have denied wrongdoing.

In June, Barcelona paid a fine of $5.8 million in a separate case after acknowledging to Spain’s tax authorities it made "an error in the fiscal planning of the player’s transfer."

Earlier this year, a National Court judge shelved the complaint made by the Brazilian investment fund, but the decision was appealed and a group of judges eventually ruled that there was enough evidence to keep the case open.

Barcelona said the price of Neymar’s transfer was 57.1 million euros ($60.6 million), with Santos receiving 17.1 million euros ($18.1 million). Prosecutors said the total amount paid by the Spanish club to Santos was 25.1 million euros ($26.6 million), meaning DIS would be entitled to an additional 3.2 million euros ($3.4 million).

Prosecutors said the difference comes from payments made by Barcelona for the future acquisitions of other players, as well as partnerships for friendly matches between the clubs.

DIS paid 5 million reals ($1.6 million) for its 40 per cent of Neymar’s rights in 2009.

In July, Barcelona midfielder Lionel Messi and his father were sentenced to 21 months in prison for tax fraud, but were not sent to jail because sentences of less than two years for first offences are usually suspended in Spain.

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