Neymar Faces Tax Probe Ahead of Champions League Soccer Final

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Neymar da Silva Santos Junior
Barcelona's Brazilian forward Neymar da Silva Santos Junior. Photographer: Oliver/AFP/Getty Images

Brazilian soccer star Neymar is being investigated by the country’s tax authorities, according to documents published by the finance ministry.

Details of the investigation have been sealed, with scant details including the names of the Barcelona player and his father. Neymar moved to Spain in 2013 in a transfer that proved controversial, with his former team Santos taking legal action over the move. Federal prosecutors in Sao Paulo have opened a separate case, according to a document filed there.

Investigations by Brazil’s tax service started on March 6, 2014, when auditors requested an explanation for “atypical” cash flow of 115 million reais ($36.4 million) between 2011 and 2014 to a company set up by his parents, according to Epoca magazine. Neymar’s lawyer, Gustavo Xisto, didn’t respond to a voice mail seeking comment.

Barcelona and Santos initially said the transfer of Neymar, the star player on Brazil’s national team, was worth 17.1 million euros ($19 million). The true cost of the trade was revealed to be significantly higher when Barcelona was threatened with legal action by one of the club’s members.

The final outlay was more than 57 million euros, including payments totaling 40 million euros to the company controlled by his parents. Including Neymar’s salary and other costs, Barcelona could end up paying about 100 million euros.

Separate Case

In a separate case in Spain, Barcelona, which is going for a fifth European Cup on Saturday, and President Josep Maria Bartomeu face trial after a judge allowed prosecutors to pursue tax evasion charges there related to Neymar’s signing. Pablo Ruz, a judge at Spain’s National Court, gave permission to open a trial for “crimes against the public tax agency” and for “dishonest” management, according to a written ruling. Ruz also said Sandro Rosell, who quit as team president last year, could stand trial.

In Brazil, an investment group called DIS Esporte is also seeking damages. The group, controlled by supermarket chain owner Delcir Sonda, got 6.84 million euros for the 40 percent stake in Neymar’s transfer rights it bought for 5.5 million reais in 2009. Based on the actual value of the transaction it should get at least 16 million euros more, the company says.

Neymar isn’t the only Barcelona player with tax problems. Four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi was the subject of a Spanish complaint that he and his father evaded 4.2 million euros in taxes on endorsement payments from Adidas AG, PepsiCo Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. and other companies.

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