BARCELONA – A few hours after scoring the winning goal in Paris Saint-Germain’s victory over Marseille in the French league, Neymar arrived in court in Spain on Monday to face a trial for alleged irregularities involving his transfer to Barcelona in 2013.
Neymar’s parents, former Barcelona presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Bartomeu, and representatives of the Spanish club and Brazilian team Santos also appeared in court after a complaint brought by Brazilian investment group DIS regarding the amount of the player’s transfer.
The Brazil forward arrived at the court in Barcelona wearing sunglasses and a black suit and tie. Neymar's mother and father, who also is his agent, were among those arriving alongside the player.
The defendants, who have denied wrongdoing, sat near each other to hear the opening arguments in the trial that comes nearly a month before the World Cup opens on Nov. 20 in Qatar, and is expected to last until the end of the month.
Neymar left the Barcelona court about two hours after arriving, without talking to reporters. The judge allowed him to leave early after having played the night before in France. He scored his ninth league goal in first-half stoppage time for PSG to beat Marseille 1-0 in French soccer’s biggest game.
Neymar and the rest of the defendants had to be in court for the first day of the trial. He is expected to testify on Tuesday.
Prosecutors have charged the 30-year-old Neymar and his father with corruption and asked for a prison sentence of up to two years, although any jail time would likely be suspended. DIS accused them of corruption and fraud and asked for a five-year prison sentence for Neymar and his father, and for compensation of 34 million euros ($32.1 million) and a fine of 195 million euros that would be paid to the Spanish state.
Prosecutors seek a fine of 10 million euros for Neymar and his father. They also seek five years in prison for Rosell for fraud and corruption charges, plus a fine of 10 million euros.
Neymar’s representatives have argued the crime of corruption between individuals was not punishable in Brazil, which is where they say the transactions originally took place. They said that according to Spanish law, a crime can't be punished in Spain if it didn't happen in both territories.
DIS was entitled to 40% of Neymar’s transfer but said it received a smaller compensation because part of the transfer fee was concealed. Prosecutors said those involved tried to hide the real amount of the transfer in order to pay a lower commission to the investment group.
The lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that DIS received only its due percentage from the 17 million euros that Barcelona and Santos initially announced as the transfer fee between the clubs, while the real cost was about 82 million euros. An investigative judge in Spain has already said that the real cost was at least 83.3 million euros.
Neymar and his father previously appeared in court in Madrid a few years ago because of the accusations.
Neymar made his highly anticipated move to Spain at age 21. He helped Barcelona win the club’s last Champions League title in 2015, and eventually became involved in a soap opera-like transfer to PSG in 2017.
Neymar’s move from Santos also got Barcelona in trouble with Spain’s tax office. In 2016, the Catalan club paid a fine of 5.5 million euros to settle a separate case brought by authorities. In that settlement, the club acknowledged it made “an error in the fiscal planning of the player’s transfer.”
Azzoni reported from Madrid.
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni