Barcelona forward Neymar has £32m of assets frozen in tax avoidance probe

A court in Brazil has moved to freeze assets belonging to Neymar as part of an investigation into alleged tax evasion.
The Sao Paulo federal court announced on Monday that it was issuing warrants to block more than £32 million worth of assets owned by the Brazil and Barcelona striker and his family, including the 24-year-old’s private jet, a yacht and several properties in Brazil.

Neymar has been accused by prosecutors of evading 63 million reais (£11m) by concealing earnings through a network of three companies belonging to his family. The assets blocked, including these firms, are intended to cover the allegedly unpaid taxes and an eventual fine of 150 per cent of that total demanded by Brazil’s revenue department if the player is found guilty.

Neymar denies any wrongdoing. A post on his official Instagram account on Tuesday featured a photograph of the player with a biblical quotation: “Christ gives me the strength to face anything”.

The asset freeze was first imposed by the court last September with the player’s appeal against that decision since having been rejected.

The money being claimed by Brazilian tax authorities relates to the 2011-2013 period, covering Neymar’s final two seasons at Brazilian club Santos and his lucrative move to FC Barcelona in 2013.

The sums involved in the forward’s transfer are also the subject of a judicial investigation in Spain, which saw Neymar called to testify in a Madrid court on February 2. Spanish prosecutors believe that directors at Barcelona and Santos cooked up a deal with the player’s father, Neymar da Silva, in which more cash changed hands than was officially recorded in the transfer contract.

A fraud complaint was brought with the Madrid court by a Brazilian investment fund called DIS, which had acquired 40 per cent of Neymar’s sporting rights before he left Santos.

DIS has claimed that it was cheated of its rightful share of the transfer deal, said by Barcelona to be worth €57.1 million (£44m), but which Spanish prosecutors believe was actually more than €83 million.

“I feel betrayed personally and economically. This was a trick between Barça, Santos, Neymar and his father”, Delcir Sonda, the Brazilian owner of DIS, told reporters earlier this month.

Mr Sonda invested more than a million pounds in Neymar when he was merely a young promise in 2009 and the businessman used a Madrid press conference to send a direct message to the Barcelona star. “You are a fantastic player and I don’t want you to go down in history for your criminal acts. You must show your strength on and off the pitch and I hope you can resolve your judicial problems in Brazil and in Spain.”

DIS received €6.8 million euros out of the total 17.1 million that Barcelona said that it paid to Santos, but it claims its share of the overall transfer payment. The remaining €40 million Barcelona said it spent on the player went to a company called N&N, managed by Neymar da Silva.

A representative of Santos told the Spanish court investigating the case that the Brazilian club also felt cheated by the Neymar deal. Santos said that it had sent an appeal to Fifa’s arbitration panel as it suspected there had been concealed extra fees of which the club should have received its rightful 60 per cent share.

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