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Barcelona May Face Judge’s Investigation in Neymar Tax Case

Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- A public prosecutor asked a judge to investigate whether Barcelona, the four-time European soccer champion, deceived the Spanish treasury when it hired Brazilian player Neymar, according to court documents.

Barcelona paid Neymar 10 million euros ($13.7 million) in 2011 and 27.9 million euros in 2013 as an incentive to join from Brazil’s Santos, the prosecutor, Jose Perals, said in a document filed at Madrid’s National Court.

The team should have withheld 24 percent of the payments -- 9.1 million euros -- as a tax on non-residents, according to Perals, who added that Barcelona performed “financial engineering” by drawing up nine contracts in the trade.

The document doesn’t ask for Neymar to be investigated.

Barcelona said in an e-mailed statement that its “dealings with respect to this operation, and in light of all information available,” were at all times in line with the law. It added that the club would be appearing in court in the next few days “to defend its interests and rights.”

“We express our total willingness to collaborate with the justice authorities in this matter, as we have done since the first moment the issue arose, and in any other area in which our presence may be required,” the club said.

Rosell Exit

Sandro Rosell quit as Barcelona president on Jan. 23 a day after the judge, Pablo Ruz, said he would open a formal investigation into a fan’s complaint about Rosell’s role in the transfer of the forward last year. Rosell denied wrongdoing, saying he was resigning to avoid tarnishing the club.

Josep Maria Bartomeu, his replacement, also contends Barcelona didn’t act illegally.

In a separate case, Lionel Messi, Barcelona’s four-time world player of the year, and his father appeared in court in September to give evidence after prosecutors accused them of evading 4.2 million euros in taxes on payments from Adidas AG and PepsiCo Inc. among other companies.

Barcelona isn’t directly involved in that case, which the government is pursuing after the Messis paid 5 million euros, the amount prosecutors say they evaded plus interest.

-- With assistance from Tariq Panja in Florianopolis. Editor: Peter-Joseph Hegarty

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Duff in Madrid at aduff4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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