BARCELONA: Spain’s High Court has suspended the trial of Barcelona and its former and current presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu over tax evasion allegations arising from the signing of Brazi superstar Neymar in 2013.
The Audiencia Provincial of Barcelona has accepted the appeals made by the defendants and has called on the public prosecution office and state legal service to present new arguments. The content of this fresh evidence will determine whether the trial is reopened.
The ruling comes after the Audencia Nacional in Madrid accepted the state prosecutor’s request to open the trial in May.
Judge Jose de la Mata said in a written ruling there was evidence that the defendants “knew the real cost of the signing of Neymar would be greater” than what they recorded in the club’s 2013 accounts.
Barcelona has consistently denied any wrongdoing, with Spain’s public prosecutor having requested a substantial fine for the club and jail terms for Bartomeu and Rosell.
The club originally said that the signing of Neymar from Brazilian Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A club Santos in May 2013 had cost €57.1m ($62.9m).
However, the club then admitted that the deal was worth nearly €100m and voluntarily paid an extra €13.5m to the Spanish treasury after being charged with tax fraud. Including tax, the total cost of signing Neymar to Barcelona should have been €94.9m, according to prosecutor Jose Perals.
The latest development means the club, Rosell and Bartomeu are no longer legally considered as defendants and are instead simply under investigation. This is the first action that the Audencia Provincial has taken on the trial since it was transferred from Madrid to Barcelona.
A separate case concerning the Neymar transfer, involving a complaint filed by Brazilian investment fund DIS that alleges that it was the victim of fraud in relation to the transaction, is still ongoing.