The trial of Brazilian superstar Neymar over his transfer to Barcelona in 2013 was due to wrap up Monday just days after a major U-turn by Spanish prosecutors who dropped all fraud charges against the player. Despite Friday’s bombshell by prosecutors, the case did not collapse because the Barcelona court is also considering a lawsuit filed by Brazilian sports investment firm DIS claiming it had been defrauded during this transfer.
The trial is the culmination of a years-long legal saga over his 2013 transfer from the Brazilian club Santos, with Neymar one of nine defendants in the dock on corruption-related charges, among them his parents and their N&N company, which manages his affairs.
Investigators began probing the transfer after a 2015 complaint filed by DIS, which owned 40 percent of the player’s sporting rights when he was at Santos.
It claims Neymar, Barcelona and the Brazilian club colluded to mask the true cost of his transfer thereby defrauding it of its legitimate financial interests.
Both Neymar and his parents, along with the rest of the defendants, will be given the chance to address the court by videoconference before the end of the day.
Spanish prosecutors had been seeking a two-year prison term and a fine of 10 million euros ($9.9 million) for the 30-year-old, who now plays for Paris Saint-Germain and will in three weeks lead Brazil into the Qatar World Cup.
But in a dramatic turn of events on Friday, the state prosecutor said it was dropping all criminal charges against the defendants on grounds there was not enough evidence to show a crime had been committed. Prosecutors had pushed ahead with the case after concurring with allegations by Brazilian sports investment firm DIS that it had been defrauded during this transfer.
They later said the allegations were not based on evidence but on “assumptions”, concluding it was a matter for civil rather than criminal justice.
Although the trial phase draws to a close on Monday, the courts final ruling is not expected for weeks.
Angered by prosecution U-turn
In 2015, DIS filed a complaint in Spain against Neymar, Barcelona and Santos alleging fraud and seeking to recover 35 million euros.
Barca said the transfer cost 57.1 million euros, with 40 million euros paid to N&N, Neymar’s parents’ company, and 17.1 million to Santos, of which 6.8 million was given to DIS.
Spanish prosecutors initially said they believed the actual value was at least 83 million euros. Following Friday’s bombshell, DIS strongly disputed the prosecution’s stance that no crime had been committed.
“We cannot agree with that,” its lawyer Eliseo Martinez said. “If that were the case, this trial would never have started.”
However, the company has eased its stance somewhat, asking that the footballer face only two-and-a-half years behind bars if found guilty, instead of five. Neymar’s lawyers will ask that the court order DIS to pay all the legal costs on grounds of acting with “recklessness” and “in bad faith”, sources close to his legal team said.
On the second day of the trial, which began on October 17, Neymar said he didn’t remember if he took part in the transfer negotiations, saying he only signed documents presented to him by his father.
All of the other defendants, including former Barca presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell, also deny any wrongdoing.
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