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Current and former FC Barcelona presidents may go on trial for Neymar signing

The judge at Madrid’s 'Audiencia Nacional', which is a court investigating and ruling on organised crime, terrorism and international fiscal offenses, announced on Wednesday the launching of an ‘oral trial’ against FC Barcelona itself, its current President, Josep Maria Bartomeu, and his predecessor and friend, Sandro Rosell, over Neymar Jr's signing. In the end, neither Rosell's resignation in January 2014, nor the payment of a complementary tax declarations have prevented a judge from requesting the opening of a trial against the Catalan club and its former and current presidents. However, it is not clear whether the trial will take place in the end, since there are some doubts about the court jurisdiction. The Audiencia National judge is accusing all of themof alleged corporate and tax offenses in the Brazilian player’s signing. The judge believes that the total amount of the transfer was €83.3 million and not the €57.1 million stated by Rosell in 2013. In addition, the judge believe Rosell hid the real figure from the club's balance sheets.

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13 May 2015 11:31 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The judge at Madrid’s 'Audiencia Nacional', which is a court investigating and ruling on organised crime, terrorism and international fiscal offenses, announced on Wednesday the launching of an abbreviated trial (called ‘oral trial’ in Spanish) against FC Barcelona itself, its current President, Josep Maria Bartomeu, and his predecessor and friend, Sandro Rosell, over Neymar Jr's signing. In the end, neither Rosell's resignation in January 2014, nor the payment of a complementary tax declarations have prevented a judge from requesting the opening of a trial against the Catalan club and its former and current presidents. However, it is not clear whether the trial will take place in the end, since there are some doubts about the court jurisdiction. The Audiencia National judge is accusing all of them of an alleged corporate offence and an offence against the Spanish Public Treasure in the Brazilian player’s signing. The judge believes that the total amount of the transfer was €83.3 million and not the €57.1 million stated by Rosell in 2013. In addition, the judge believes Rosell hid the real figure from the club's balance sheets, which were approved by the club members' general assembly on 5 November 2013. The judge also believes there to be irregular figures in the club's accounts from the 2011, 2013 and 2014 fiscal years regarding this case.


Rosell, Bartomeu, and the club have argued that the cost of the transfer was €57.1 million and the rest was paid for other concepts, such as the player's image rights, which have different taxation rules. They believe the case should have been treated as a misunderstanding with the Spanish Tax Agency because they believed they were doing things right, they say. The judge initially investigating the case until April, Pablo Ruz, the judge that finished the investigation, José de la Mata, the public prosecutor, and the Spanish Tax Agency have a different opinion. De la Mata concluded the investigation and has sent the case to the Audiencia Nacional's Penal Court, which should send the subpoenas to Rosell, Bartomeu and FC Barcelona.

The Public Prosecutor is requesting 7 years and 3 months of prison time for Rosell and 2 years and 3 months for Bartomeu, who is seeking re-election next June. The judge believes that it has been "proven" that both Rosell and Bartomeu were aware of Neymar's additional cost. This would have harmed the club because the transfer was going against the club's strategic plan to control its finances and reduce its debt. According to the investigating judge's version, Rosell negotiated directly with Neymar's family entourage and his former club, Santos FC, for the payment of additional amounts to make the transfer a reality.

The judge accuses Rosell of having hidden these additional figures, both to the club members and the Spanish Tax Agency. In order to hid the real cost, it is claimed that Rosell split the cost into several payments distributed over several fiscal years. For this reason, the judge is also asking Deloitte, who audited the club's accounts, to identify the team responsible for the audits for the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 seasons.

In this version of events, it is claimed that Bartomeu, as Rosell's right-hand man, was aware of these matters and covered the club President. Since they both have held the position as the club's senior team manager and made the general assembly validate the figures, the judge also held FC Barcelona responsible for the alleged fraud. The Public Prosecutor is requesting the payment of €20 million in fines and compensation.

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  • The current FC Barcelona President, Josep Maria Bartomeu, when he testified before the judge in March (by X. Vallbona)

  • The current FC Barcelona President, Josep Maria Bartomeu, when he testified before the judge in March (by X. Vallbona)