Brazilian football superstar Neymar was cleared of corruption charges on Tuesday related to his transfer to Barcelona from Santos in 2013.
A court in Spain acquitted all nine defendants in the trial.
In addition to Neymar, this included his parents, FC Barcelona and former club presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and SandroRosell, Santos FC and former president Odilio Rodrigues Filho, and N&N – the company founded by Neymar’s parents to manage his career.
Brazilian company DIS had argued they lost out financially on Neymar’s transfer because they owned 40 per cent of his sporting rights at Santos and believed the true value of the deal had been obscured by those involved.
“According to the court, it has not been proved there was a false contract or that DIS was intended to be harmed,” said the court in a statement.
DIS said later Tuesday that they would appeal the sentence before the Spanish Supreme Court.
“DIS laments that the opportunity has been lost to put a stop to some corrupt practises in the world of football that are inconceivable in other areas,” said the company in a statement.
Neymar’s high-profile trial got underway in mid-October in Barcelona, just a month before the start of the World Cup in Qatar.
The 30-year-old — who now plays for French champions Paris Saint-Germain — and Brazil crashed out after a penalty shootout against Croatia in the quarter-finals.
Prosecutors had initially sought a two-year jail term and a 10-million-euro ($10.5 million) fine for Neymar but in a surprise move they dropped corruption and fraud charges against all the accused at the end of October.
Brazilian sports investment firm DIS filed a lawsuit in 2015 alleging it had been defrauded during the player’s transfer to Barcelona.
It claimed Neymar, Barcelona and the Brazilian club colluded to mask the true cost of his transfer thereby cheating it of its proper share of the player’s transfer.
DIS also argued that it was not informed of the existence of an exclusivity contract in 2011 between Neymar and Barcelona.
But Spanish prosecutors, which initially shared DIS’ view, later said the firm’s allegations were not based on “evidence.”
They concluded the case was a matter for civil rather than criminal justice.
Even though prosecutors dropped their charges the case continued because the court was also considering a separate indictment filed by DIS as it is allowed by Spanish law.
DIS was seeking to recover 35 million euros it claims it was cheated of.
Barca said the transfer cost 57.1 million euros, with 40 million euros paid to N&N and 17.1 million to Santos, of which 6.8 million was given to DIS.
Spanish prosecutors initially said they believed the actual value was at least 83 million euros.
During the trial Neymar said he didn’t remember if he took part in the transfer negotiations, saying he only signed documents presented to him by his father.
All of the other defendants, including former Barcelona presidents Bartomeu and Rosell, denied any wrongdoing.
DIS, which owns a chain of supermarkets in Brazil’s Sao Paulo region, initially asked for a five-year prison sentence for Neymar and his father who is also the player’s agent.
But at the end of the trial it called for a revised prison sentence of two and a half years for Neymar and four years for Neymar’s father, but the defendants were acquitted.
Neymar, who won the Champions League with Barcelona in 2015, left for PSG in 2017 for a world-record 222 million euro ($234 million) transfer fee, with the Parisian side activating his release clause. – AFP
Neymar (left) leaving the court on Tuesday