Barcelona and Brazil star Neymar is currently free on $3.7 million bail.
On Thursday, a Spanish court decided that the criminal case against him, his parents and Barcelona should proceed. They stand accused of willfully misrepresenting the fee of his 2013 transfer from Santos to Barca in order to defraud DIS, an investment group that owned 40 percent of Neymar’s rights at the time, of its fair cut of the transfer proceeds.
After several appeals to drop the charges failed, the case will go ahead, even though Neymar, his parents — who manage his business dealings — and Barca all plead their innocence. Sandro Rosell, the former Barca chairman, who resigned in the wake of this case coming to light, will be called to testify. As will his replacement, current chairman Josep Maria Bartomeu.
The prosecution is seeking two years of prison time and almost $11 million in fines for Neymar. It should be noted, however, that in Spain it’s customary for sentences of two years or less for non-violent, first-time offenders to be suspended. As such, it’s improbable that Neymar would really be jailed.
That’s how his Barca teammates Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano remained free, even though they were both found guilty of tax evasion and given prison sentences in the last year.
It’s possible, however, that Neymar could be suspended from playing soccer for the duration of his sentence. While such an outcome is unlikely, it can’t be ruled out that the 25-year-old might be deprived of a good chunk of his prime.
In the 2013 transfer, DIS was only given 6.8 million euros under the guise that Santos’s share of the 57.1 million euro transfer fee was 17 million euros. However, the Spanish courts believe Santos was in fact paid 25 million euros on an 86.1 million euro total fee, meaning DIS only got about two-thirds of what it was entitled to. DIS sued.
Barca has already paid a 5.5 million euro fine to resolve the tax-evasion aspect of this case. But since prosecutors believe both Neymar and his parents were fully aware of the shenanigans over his reported, they should be held criminally liable over their part in the fraud.