Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Josep Bartomeu, Barcelona Ordered to Trial over Alleged Tax Fraud in Neymar Deal

Gianni Verschueren

Following the conclusion of an investigation into Barcelona's signing of star forward Neymar from Santos in 2013, Judge Pablo Ruz decided there is enough evidence to launch a trial against the club and current president Josep Bartomeu, as well as former president Sandro Rosell, for alleged tax fraud.

Continue for updates.

Neymar's Father Defends Barcelona

Wednesday, March 25

Neymar Snr. posted a statement on his son's website in light of the recent claims against Barca. He suggests the club's officials facilitated the signing of Neymar without breaking the law, something he believes will eventually be proven, reported by Football Espana:

I am convinced the individuals involved in the transaction carried out their work with respect at all times for the laws of Brazil and Spain, and that they did so within FIFA’s statutory framework.

We are confident that eventually it will be shown that steps taken to make it possible for Neymar Jnr. to play for Barcelona were completely legal, overseen by the best lawyers, and that at no point was there any intention whatsoever to break any law.

Barca Deny Wrongdoing as Prosecutor Calls for Prison Sentences

Tuesday, March 24

Prosecutor Jose Perals Calleja has called for Bartomeu to receive two years and three months in prison, while outlining a seven-year sentence for Rosell, as reported by J.M. Bertran of SportCalleja is also said to have urged Judge Ruz to impose a €22.2 million fine on the Catalan club.

Barcelona continue to deny any wrongdoing, as highlighted in an official statement on the club's website:

Both the Club and its president reiterate their total innocence before a matter which only has financial not criminal liability, the legal differences of which should be settled on an administrative level, not in a National Court.

The statement also confirmed Bartomeu still plans to stand in the club's upcoming presidential election, despite the "great injustice" of the Neymar case.

Bertran's report indicates the court appearance of Bartomeu, Rosell and other Barca representatives is yet to receive a finalised date.

Bartomeu, Barcelona Ordered to Trial over Neymar Case

Friday, March 13

Sport English previously shared the news that Bartomeu and the club would be brought in front of the judge:

The Catalans already "paid £11.2 million to the Spanish authorities" back in 2014 but denied any wrong doing at the time, via BBC Sport, but it now seems new evidence has come to light, resulting in a new investigation.

As shared by Bloomberg's Alex Duff, the charges will go even deeper than simple tax evasion:

AS' Santi Gimenez provided more details:

Judge Pablo Ruz has finished his investigation into the signing of Brazilian forward Neymar by Barcelona and has decided to send current Barça president Josep Maria Bartomeu, former president Sandro Rosell and the club itself to stand trial for tax fraud and administrative irregularities in the deal to bring the player to Catalonia.

As expected the last-ditch attempts by club lawyers to stop the process failed. The last was a claim that as the events took place in Spain the case should be heard by a local court in Barcelona, rather than by the High Court – however prosecutor Perals rejected the arguments and recommended to Judge Ruz that he continue with the procedure.

Bartomeu replaced Rosell after the latter stepped down in the wake of the Neymar transfer, when allegations came to light that payments for the player's services were never fully declared to the Spanish state.

Barcelona previously released a statement stating they would appeal the decision:

Futbol Club Barcelona has learned today of Judge Pablo Ruz’s decision to declare his inquiry over and proceed with the foreseen procedures with regard to the Club itself, its president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, and it former president, Sandro Rosell.

On this historic decision, FC Barcelona wishes to make the following statements:

First, the Club does not agree with the aforesaid verdict, as indicated by the arguments contained in the documents presented in defence of the said persons, and that basically describe in detail how it is not true that a criminal offence has been committed.

Second, in response to the aforesaid verdict, FC Barcelona announces that it shall be appealing against the same, although this announcement must be made notionally, because its representatives have not yet received any formal notification from the Court.

Third, it is strange, and breeds uncertainty, that after the Club’s defence should have pressed charges of unsuitability against Judge Ruz yesterday, the judge should settle the case today before the media. It is difficult to understand and could possibly be misconstrued, that on the very same day that the judge formally requests assistance from the Public Ministry that the act whereby the Judge has already resolved this question is announced via the media, without issue of the report or the club being notified of the same.

This can only be explained when it is confirmed that all of the judicial resolutions contain, word for word, all of the considerations made by the Ministry of Public Prosecution, without at any time attending to any of the requests made by the parties, or even implementing the procedures requested by the defence.

Fourth, the club shall immediately press charges against the unusual speed with which the procedures are being carried out. A speed that does not respect the usual rates for such procedures, nor offers guarantees for the parties, such as, for example, the fact that to date no statement by the FC Barcelona legal representative has been heard, although this had been agreed with the magistrate.

The Club, both with regard to this case and other aggressions received in its 115 years of history, will not tolerate such actions, especially when it has offered to collaborate and explain, from the start, all of the events surrounding the transfer of the player Neymar Jr.
Finally, FC Barcelona wishes to send out a message of calm to its members and inform them that, if to date it has been especially careful with the ways it has dealt with this unpleasant affair, from now on, and given that the internal dynamics of this difficult affair go beyond the strictly legal sphere, the Club shall be doing everything possible to set matters straight, as it always has done throughout its history, and will continue offering every success possible to its members.

As reported by news agency EFE, via AS, the full sum was split into several smaller payments and disguised as fees for upcoming friendlies and other collaborations.

Barcelona officially paid a transfer fee of €57 million for Neymar, but via EFE, it later came to light the actual sum paid was far greater, and the Spanish state lost out on several million worth of taxes as a result. This also led investigators to believe Rosell acted in bad faith, by structuring the deal in such a way the club could evade the added taxes.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

On top of that, the charges against Bartomeu reportedly relate to "personal income tax," via EFE.

When the new investigation first came to light, current club president Bartomeu released a statement via Barcelona's official website in which he denied any wrongdoing:

The president of FC Barcelona, Josep Maria Bartomeu, gave a statement on Friday morning at the Audiencia Nacional (National Court) in relation to the signing of Neymar. The president was accompanied by his lawyer, the expert in criminal law, Jose Angel Gonzalez Franco.

In the evidence given in front of the judge Pablo Ruz, President Bartomeu gave explanations to all about which he was questioned. In particular, he defended the decisions taken in the matter, always in consultation with the Club’s financial advisers.

He made it clear that it has never been his intention, nor that of the Club’s executives, to aim to defraud the National Tax Office.'s Kris Voakes also pointed out Bartomeu laid the blame squarely at the feet of Rosell, but despite those objections, he will now also face a judge when the case goes to trial.

This is the second time in quick succesion Barcelona have made the news with regards to tax fraud, following the highly publicised court case against star forward Lionel Messi, via the BBC

According to Bloomberg's Duff, the sum Barcelona reportedly didn't pay is in the vicinity of €9 million.


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