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04 March 2024

Barcelona's Neymar ordered to give evidence in transfer fraud case

Neymar of Brazil and FC Barcelona speaks to the media during a press conference prior to the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2015 at the Kongresshaus on January 11, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Getty Images)

By Agencies

Barcelona's off-field strife despite their on-field success continued on Wednesday as Brazilian star Neymar was called to give evidence by Spain's national court on February 2 for alleged fraud surrounding his transfer to the Catalan giants in 2013.

Neymar starred as Barca won five trophies in 2015, but the manner in which his transfer from Santos came about has become a legal nightmare for the club, the player and his family.

Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu, his predecessor Sandro Rosell, Neymar's parents and two directors of Santos have also been called to declare.

Neymar has been ordered to appear in a Spanish court next month as one of the defendants in a fraud case brought by Brazilian investment fund DIS.

The firm alleges it was the victim when Barca signed the player, third in the latest world football player of the year poll, from Brazilian club Santos.

A judge in Madrid, acting on a request from the state prosecutor, ordered Neymar, his parents, former Barca president Sandro Rosell, incumbent Josep Maria Bartomeu and two former Santos officials to present themselves on Feb. 1 and 2.

Javier Faus, a former Barca vice president, was called to appear as a witness.

"The judge ... believes that the prosecutor's requests are 'relevant, necessary and balanced' for them to require an examination of the facts," the court said in a statement on Wednesday.

Neither Barcelona, Neymar or any of the other defendants could immediately be reached for comment.

The club has said it acted "fully within the law" and rejected the accusations contained in the DIS suit.

The fund, which owned 40 percent of Neymar's rights when he was at Santos, alleges it was paid far less than it was entitled to when the player agreed to join the Spanish and European champions in 2013.

The complaint was the latest twist to a saga that has also led to Barca, Rosell and Bartomeu facing trial for tax fraud.

Bartomeu was a vice president under Rosell when Neymar was signed in a complex deal involving multiple contracts.

Bartomeu, Rosell, who resigned over the allegations, and the club have been accused of defrauding the tax office of some 13 million euros ($14.1 million). All three have denied any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors have asked for a prison sentence of two years and three months for Bartomeu and 7-1/2 years for Rosell, plus fines and payments of outstanding taxes totalling more than 60 million euros.

The tax probe was launched after a club member questioned the figures given for the Neymar deal. Barca initially said they paid 57.1 million euros but later admitted the cost was nearer 100 million.