Prosecutors in Spain on Friday dropped corruption and fraud charges against football star Neymar and others accused in a trial over the Brazilian’s 2013 move from Santos to Barcelona.
In a dramatic move, the prosecutor announced the “withdrawal of the charges against all the accused and for all the allegations” they had faced.
Neymar, 30, had said he did not remember if he took part in the negotiations which led to an agreement sealed in 2011 with Barcelona over his transfer two years later to the Spanish side from Brazilian club Santos.
Spanish prosecutors had sought a two-year prison term for Neymar, a key member of the Brazil team that will be heading to the World Cup in Qatar next month, and the payment of a 10-million-euro ($9.7-million) fine.
The dropping of the charges is the culmination of a years-long legal saga over Neymar’s high-profile transfer to Europe.
He then joined Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain in a world record 222-million-euro transfer in 2017.
Neymar had been one of nine defendants on trial on corruption-related charges, among them his parents and their N&N company, which manages his affairs.
Even if he had been convicted, prison terms of two years or less are never enforced in Spain for a first-time offender.
Investigators began probing the transfer to Barcelona after a 2015 complaint filed by DIS, a Brazilian company that owned 40 per cent of the player’s sporting rights when he was at Santos, the club where he rose to global prominence.
The firm claims that Neymar, Barcelona and the Brazilian club colluded to mask the true cost of his transfer thereby defrauding it of its legitimate financial interests.
Barca said the transfer was valued at 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 believe the actual value was at least 83 million euros.
DIS is seeking to recover 35 million euros.
– ‘I sign what I’m told to’ –
Neymar gave evidence earlier this month, telling the court he had done nothing illegal and that he only signed documents his father gave him.
“My father has always been in charge” of contract negotiations, he said. “I sign what he tells me to.”
DIS also claims financial harm from the 2011 pre-contract agreement with Barca, claiming it had impeded other clubs from making offers and affected the value of the transfer fee.
But the player’s father, Neymar Sr, told the court the talks had been authorised by the Brazilian club at the time and that “it was Santos’ responsibility” to inform DIS, and not his.
Apart from Neymar, his father and his mother Nadine Goncalves, two former Barca presidents, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, and ex-Santos boss Odilio Rodrigues Filho are among the defendants.
Neymar’s lawyers insist their client is innocent, saying the 40-million-euro payment from Barca was a “legal signing bonus which is normal in the football transfer market”.
Neymar is having one of his best seasons since he joined PSG and is expected to play a key role for Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar.
He has scored nine league goals in 11 matches and made seven assists.
He is expected to lead the Selecao into their World Cup Group G opener against Serbia on November 24 as the South American giants begin their quest to win the trophy for the first time since 2002, and the sixth in total.