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Probe into tax fraud against Neymar begins

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Barcelona star striker, Neymar Jr PHOTO/File

Barcelona star striker, Neymar Jr PHOTO/File

MADRID, June 17- A Spanish court Wednesday launched a fraud investigation against Barcelona striker Neymar, a judicial source said, dragging the Brazilian star into a case in which the club’s president faces trial.

The National Court admitted a lawsuit alleging “corruption and swindling” by the star player, his father and his former club Santos linked to the signing of Neymar by Barca in 2013.

The case has been brought by a Brazilian investment fund, DIS, which owned part of the transfer rights for the player when he was at Santos, the source told AFP.

The 23-year-old helped Barcelona to a stunning triple of Spanish league, cup and Champions League this season, scoring in the final of the latter against Juventus.

He was to captain Brazil on Wednesday against Colombia in the Copa America tournament in Chile, hours after news of the investigation emerged.

DIS received 6.8 million euros ($7.7 million) out of the total 17.1 million that Barca paid to Santos, but claims it may also be due a share of the overall transfer payments.

It accuses Barca of signing a deal with the player that unfairly excluded other clubs and of hiding the true cost of the transfer.

– Neymar, Messi legal woes –

Santos have also launched an action in Brazil against Barcelona, the player and his father over alleged irregularities in the deal. The club may also face a further tax fraud enquiry in Brazil, media there have reported.

In a separate lawsuit in Spain, a judge last month ordered Barcelona’s president Josep Bartomeu, his predecessor Sandro Rosell and the club itself to stand trial over alleged tax fraud linked to the signing.

They have always said they paid a transfer fee of 57 million euros to sign Neymar from Santos.

The courts suspect the actual price was more than 83 million euros and that Rosell and Bartomeu hid the real cost from the taxman.

The case was shifted from Madrid to a court in Barcelona last month after an appeal was upheld. No date for a trial has been set so far.

It is alleged the overall fee was split between a number of different contracts between Barcelona, Santos and Neymar himself.

Barcelona stand accused of thereby defrauding the Spanish taxman of 12.7 million euros.

Prosecutors have demanded a prison sentence of two years and three months for Bartomeu and seven years for Rosell, as well as a 22.2 million euro fine for the club.

The implication of Bartomeu could seriously damage his campaign to be elected to another term as president when club members vote in an election on July 18.

On Tuesday, Barcelona’s former president Joan Laporta announced he too would run again for the post which he held from 2003 to 2010, a period of on-field success and financial turbulence.

At Barca, Neymar forms part of one of the most deadly strike forces in football, alongside Uruguayan Luis Suarez and Argentine ace Lionel Messi.

In an unrelated case, Messi also faces ongoing legal troubles, having last week lost an appeal over tax fraud charges which could see him go on trial.

Messi and his father Jorge have denied charges that they avoided paying 4.6 million euros of tax on earnings from the player’s image rights from 2007-2009.

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