BARCELONA - Brazil forward Neymar will stand trial next week on fraud and corruption charges over his transfer to Barcelona from Santos in 2013 and the complainant, Brazilian investment firm DIS, said on Thursday it was demanding a five-year jail term.
Along with Neymar, the defendants in the trial being brought by Spanish prosecutors, which begins in Barcelona on Monday, are his parents, the two clubs, former Barca presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell, and ex-Santos president Odilio Rodrigues.
The case stems from a complaint by DIS, which owned 40 per cent of the rights to Neymar when he was at Santos. The company argues that it lost out on its rightful cut from the transfer because the true value of the deal was understated.
Neymar, who is a key member of the Brazil team that will be heading to the World Cup in Qatar next month, has denied the allegations but lost an appeal in Spain's High Court in 2017, which paved the way for the trial.
Baker McKenzie, who will be defending Neymar and his family in the trial, told Reuters they will argue that the Spanish courts "lack jurisdiction to prosecute the Neymar family" since the transfer involved Brazilian nationals in Brazil.
Spanish prosecutors want a two-year prison term for Neymar and the payment of a €10 million fine plus a five-year jail term for Rosell and an €8.4 million fine for Barcelona.
DIS is also requesting jail terms for Rosell and Bartomeu, and a total fine of €149 million fine for the defendants.
Rosell has previously denied any wrongdoing. His representatives did not respond to a request for comment.
Barcelona and lawyers representing Bartomeu declined to comment on the case. Santos did not immediately respond to a request for comment and Rodrigues could not be immediately reached.
DIS acquired 40 per cent of Neymar's rights when he was aged 17 in exchange for €2 million. It argues that the player's sale to Barcelona was well below his real market value.
Barca said at the time of Neymar's move that the transfer figure was €57.1 million, of which 40 million was paid to Neymar's family.
DIS received a 40 per cent share of the remaining 17.1 million that was paid to Santos.
"Neymar's rights have not been sold to the highest bidder. There were clubs that offered up to €60 million," DIS lawyer Paulo Nasser told a news conference in Barcelona on Thursday.
Neymar's lawyers argue that competition rules relate to products and services and do not apply to the transfer market.
"The rules of free competition do not operate since the transfer from one club to another depends on the free will of the player," a Baker McKenzie spokesman told Reuters.
"The player is not a service or a commodity. He is a person of his own free will," he added, saying Santos granted Neymar a written authorisation to negotiate with other clubs in 2011.
The court in Barcelona where the trial will be held said Neymar will have to appear in person on Monday for the first day but it is unclear if he will be asked to stay for the whole hearing that could go on for two weeks.
Neymar, his parents, Rosell and Bartomeu will start their testimony next Friday. REUTERS