Barcelona’s Neymar reacts during a Barcelona match on Oct 29, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]
The prospect of Barcelona superstar Neymar standing trial moved closer on Monday after a Madrid judge accepted an appeal by prosecutors for new corruption charges to be brought against the Brazilian striker.
The decision overturned a ruling in July that said irregularities detected in Neymar’s 2013 transfer to Barcelona were an issue for a civil court, not a criminal court.
Neymar’s parents, along with Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his predecessor Sandro Rosell also face corruption charges.
Both the defense and prosecution have 10 days to present their arguments before a final decision on whether the case will go to trial will be made, a statement from Spain’s National Court said.
Should he be found guilty, Neymar, 24, faces a prison sentence of between six months and two years, along with a heavy fine.
According to the judge’s findings, a pre-contract agreement between Neymar and Barcelona by which the player received around $40 million in 2011 to ward off competing clubs for his signature “altered the free market of soccer transfers.”
Bartomeu and Rosell also stand accused of fraud over the transfer.
The case initiated with a complaint from Brazilian investment company DIS, which owned 40 percent of Neymar’s sporting rights at the time of his transfer from Santos.
Barca initially announced the cost of the move at $55 million – $15 million of which was paid to Santos with the remaining $40 million paid to N&N, a company owned by Neymar’s family.
However, Spanish authorities believe the real cost eventually escalated to just over $80 million.
DIS, which received 40 percent of the fee paid to Santos. believes it was cheated of its real share because part of the transfer fee was concealed by Barcelona and Neymar.
Moreover, DIS also argued the pre-contract agreement between Neymar and Barca impeded other clubs from making offers for the player, affecting the value of the transfer fee.
The decision is another blow to the image of the Spanish champion and the player himself.
Barca hoped to bring an end to the murky affair when the club agreed to pay a $5 million fine in a deal with prosecutors in June to settle a separate case and ensure the club avoided trial on tax-evasion charges over the transfer.