Barcelona have been ordered to stand trial over alleged tax fraud linked to the signing of Brazilian striker Neymar.
The National Court in Madrid has ordered the trial of Barca’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu, his predecessor Sandro Rosell and the club as a defendant in its own right.
They have always said they paid €57m to sign Neymar from his home club Santos in 2013. The court suspects the actual price was €83m and that Rosell and Bartomeu hid the real cost from the taxman.
Judge Jose de la Mata said in a written ruling there was evidence that they “knew the real cost of the signing of Neymar would be greater” than what they recorded in the club’s 2013 accounts.
The defendants have 10 days to make court filings in their defence, the court said. It did not set a trial date for the time being.
The ruling comes as Barcelona aim for a possible treble in the Spanish league, Spanish cup and Champions League.
Prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence of two years and three months for Bartomeu and seven years for Rosell, as well as a €22.2m fine for the club.
The cost of the transfer rose steeply when Barca decided to bring forward an initial agreement signed in 2011 for the player to move in 2014 by a year as other clubs, including rivals Real Madrid, attempted to hijack the deal.
Rosell resigned over the scandal in January 2014 after a club member lodged a complaint for misappropriation of funds, with his then vice-president Bartomeu taking charge.
Shortly afterwards the club confirmed a number of extra agreements including a €10m signing bonus for the player and scouting and collaborative agreements totalling €86.2m, but insisted the transfer fee remained €57m.
In February of last year, Barcelona announced that they had made a voluntary payment of €13.5m to the Spanish tax authorities regarding the transfer.
Source: The Punch