Josep Maria Bartomeu
Josep Maria Bartomeu

A Spanish prosecutor has moved to ask for Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu to be investigated for alleged tax fraud in the signing of Brazil international Neymar and on Tuesday the club have officially communicated their “surprise, indignation and total disagreement.” The latest step in a long-running saga relating to the summer 2013 transfer has seen judge Pablo Ruz accept a prosecutor’s petition that Bartomeu be charged for allegedly defrauding the Spanish taxpayer of 2.8 million euros during the deal.
Bartomeu is now set to give evidence before Madrid’s Audiencia National court on February 13.
Ruz is overseeing an investigation into whether former Barca president Sandro Rosell misappropriated funds to hide the transfer cost paid to Santos for Neymar. Rosell resigned as president in January 2014, a day after Ruz officially accepted a petition brought by Barca socio Jordi Cases asking for the transfer to be investigated.
Bartomeu then stepped up from vice-president to fill the top position at the Camp Nou, and was in charge when the 2014 accounts — to which the most recent charge pertains — were filed.
The Catalan club have reacted to the latest developments with an official club statement saying they disagreed with moves to charge both Rosell and Bartomeu for their roles in the transfer.
The statement read: “FC Barcelona wishes to express to its members its surprise, indignation and total disagreement with the public prosecutor’s petition for the club and its former president Sandro Rosell to face trial for presumed misdemeanors in the transfer of the player Neymar da Silva Santos Jr.
“In recent months, FC Barcelona has declared its innocence, and has provided all of the documentation requested on numerous occasions and which has been supported by various judicial testimonies. The club has also been advised at all times by specialists in tax law.
“With respect to the specific request by the Public Prosecutors Office to charge president Josep Maria Bartomeu for a supposed tax offence in 2014, FC Barcelona also wishes to declare its utter disagreement.”
Barca at first maintained that the player had cost just 57 million euros, although they later published a breakdown of the deal including a number of side-payments to the N&N company run by Neymar’s father, bringing the cost to a total of 86.2 million euros.
While always denying any wrongdoing during the complicated deal, Barca’s board paid an extra 13.6 million euros to Spain’s tax authorities in February 2014. Bartomeu at that point said this payment was just a precautionary measure, and he was confident the money would be returned as the club had always acted legally during the transfer.
The club statement issued on Tuesday suggested the latest developments were merely to do with the timing of the payment of one portion of the total transfer fee, which in their view was not sufficiently serious for charges to be brought.
The statement continued: “In this case, the charge is related to a payment of five million euros, the final part of the 40 million that the club was obliged to pay to the N&N company for the transfer of the player, and which it was stipulated would be paid on 31 January 2014, eight days after the change of president.
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“The decision to defer this payment to January 2014, and the discussion about the type of tax retentions that should be applied to the same, do not seem to be sufficient grounds to press charges. Moreover, the complementary statement presented as a precautionary and preventative measure in February 2014 already covered any interpretations that could be made with regard to the retention to be applied to this payment.”
The club added: “All of the actions involved in the player’s transfer process were conducted with no intent whatsoever to breach the law in any way.
“FC Barcelona declares that, in all serenity and guided by its own prudence, it shall act determinedly and in use of all legal resources to continue defending its own interests and those of its members. Likewise, FC Barcelona shall not allow any action to tarnish the club’s image or to damage or dishonour what it considers to be a historic and strategic signing.”