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Neymar Fraud Trial Begins in Barcelona

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The fraud trial of Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar Jr and eight others began on Monday in Barcelona as the Brazilian appeared in court in the Catalan capital.

Witnesses say Neymar stopped to sign autographs at El Prat Airport before heading to the Provincial Court, where his trial started at around 10 am local time.

Dressed in black, Neymar was seen talking and laughing with his father as well as former FC Barcelona president Sandro Rosell.

Neymar, his father, and Rosell are being tried for fraud and corruption in relation to Neymar’s 2013 transfer from boyhood club Santos to Barca.

Other defendants include Neymar’s mother, representatives of both Santos and Barca, another former Barca president, Josep Bartomeu, and ex-Santos president Odilio Rodrigues.

Prosecutors in Spain are seeking a two-year prison term for Neymar, 30, and a fine of €10 million ($9.8 million). However, his legal representatives Baker McKenzie are set to argue that Spanish courts don’t have the jurisdiction to prosecute Neymar’s family because the 2013 transfer involved a Brazilian national in Brazil.

Rosell, who has already served 20 months behind bars for money laundering in relation to the audiovisual rights of 24 Brazil matches, is facing demands from prosecutors for a five-year jail term, while Barcelona have been hit with calls for an €8.4 million ($8.2 million) fine.

The trial centers on claims made by Brazilian investment firm DIS, which once owned 40% of Neymar’s rights when he played for Santos. It believes it lost out on its rightful cut from the transfer of the player, because the value of the move was allegedly understated.

“Neymar, with the connivance of his parents and the boards of directors of Barcelona and Santos, betrayed the trust of my clients,” claimed DIS lawyer Paulo Nasser at a news conference in Barcelona last week.

“The real cost of the transaction (between Santos and Barcelona) was €82 million ($80 million), and only €17 million ($16.6 million) appeared as the official transfer,” Nasser said.

Bartomeu, who was then Barca’s vice-president, initially claimed that Neymar’s transfer fee was €57.1 million ($55.6 million). A day after Bartomeu resigned as president on January 23, 2014, however, Barca revealed that the deal had cost them €86.2 million ($88.4 million).

Barca were later investigated for tax fraud, and Santos unsuccessfully sued to receive more than the €17.1 million ($16.6 million) they were initially handed.

Nasser also claims that Neymar wasn’t sold to the highest bidder in 2013, as other clubs offered up to €60 million ($58.5 million), and rumors have spread that Barca and Santos struck an agreement for €40 million ($38.9 million) so that Neymar would not listen to proposals from other clubs for the player.

Nasser and DIS have demanded a five-year jail term for Neymar, who joined PSG in a €222 million ($216.4 million) world record deal after his Barca release clause was activated in 2017.

DIS is seeking fines worth €149 million ($145.2 million) in total, and for Neymar to be disqualified for the length of any sentence that is handed down by the judge at the end of the trial expected to last seven days.

All nine of the defendants have previously denied any wrongdoing.

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