Neymar testifies in fraud trial over Barcelona transfer
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Neymar said in court on Tuesday in a fraud and corruption trial over his transfer from Brazilian club Santos to Barcelona in 2013 that he knew little about the negotiations and his father was always in charge of his contracts.
Neymar and his father, who acts as his agent, were among those accused of concealing the real amount of the transfer from an investment group involved in the negotiations.
Neymar’s mother, former Barcelona presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Bartomeu, and representatives of both club also were in court in the trial that began on Monday and was expected to last at least until next week.
Neymar testified for only a few minutes.
“My father handles everything,” he said. “I wasn’t involved in the negotiations. I only sign what he tells me to sign.”
Neymar said he heard rumors about other clubs wanting to sign him but his dream as a kid was always to play for Barcelona.
“In the end it was either (Real) Madrid or Barcelona, but I followed my heart and chose Barça,” he said.
Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez was called to testify by the plaintiffs and said via video conference he didn’t know Neymar personally but admitted his club was interested in signing the player before he joined Barcelona. He said Madrid made an offer for Neymar for 45 million euros (now $44.2 million).
Neymar’s father said Madrid made offers to sign Neymar since 2009, but his son always wanted to play for Barcelona.
Neymar’s mother also said she had no knowledge of the negotiations between Santos and Barcelona.
Neymar and his parents were allowed to leave the court after they all testified.
All defendants have denied wrongdoing. They all had to be in court on the first day, but Neymar was allowed to leave after a few hours because he played for Paris Saint-Germain in France the night before.
Neymar’s move from Santos got Barcelona in trouble with Spain’s tax office a few years ago.
Investment group 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 to pay a lower commission.
Prosecutors 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 up to that length would likely be suspended. Prosecutors also seek a fine of 10 million euros ($9.8 million) for Neymar and his father.
DIS accused Neymar and his father of corruption and fraud and asked for a five-year prison sentence, plus financial compensation.
Azzoni reported from Madrid.
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