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Barca president denies tax fraud in Neymar deal

Barcelona's legal woes do not appear to be affecting their results on the pitch.

Neymar's high-profile move to Barcelona in the close season was initially shrouded in mystery and it was unclear what exactly was paid to whom and when (Reuters) Neymar’s high-profile move to Barcelona in the close season was initially shrouded in mystery and it was unclear what exactly was paid to whom and when (Reuters)

Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu has said the operation to bring Neymar to the Catalan capital was “completely legal” and reiterated the club’s innocence of tax fraud in signing the Brazil international.

In the latest twist to a saga that prompted Bartomeu’s predecessor, Sandro Rosell, to step down last month, a Madrid court on Thursday charged the Spanish champions with defrauding the tax authority.

The club was forced on the defensive after a member filed a complaint against Rosell alleging misappropriation of funds and when details of Neymar’s move from Santos to Barca came to light the judge overseeing the case granted the public prosecutor’s request to lay charges for tax fraud.”We are very comfortable because the contract is completely normal,” Bartomeu said on Thursday. “We took advice, ourselves, the player, Santos, and we did everything legally,” he added. “We now intend to explain the nature of the negotiation and what the contracts are and we will show that they are completely legal. Everything that was done was done correctly. We would do the same again.”

Neymar’s high-profile move to Barcelona in the close season was initially shrouded in mystery and it was unclear what exactly was paid to whom and when.

After Rosell stepped down, Barca admitted he had cost 86.2 million euros ($118 million), including payments to the player and his family, and not 57.1 million as they originally said.

The judge has requested Barca’s tax records relating to the deal and had asked the tax authority to calculate the scale of any alleged fraud.Local media reported the club should have paid 9.1 million euros more in tax than they did. It is unclear what punishment is likely to be handed down if Barca are deemed culpable.

In a separate development on Thursday the court accepted a complaint by a Spanish non-governmental organisation that fights corruption called “Clean Hands”.

The complaint accuses Rosell, Bartomeu, who was closely involved in the transfer negotiations, and another Barca vice president, Javier Faus, as well as Neymar’s father, of misappropriation of funds and document fraud. “Seeing as we are very relaxed it doesn’t matter if they (Clean Hands) file a complaint against us,” Bartomeu said. “We will defend ourselves from a position of strength and we will go where we have to go. This will all end up being a mere anecdote.”

Barca’s legal woes do not appear to be affecting their results on the pitch.

They secured a 2-0 win away to English Premier League side Manchester City in Tuesday’s Champions League last 16, first leg, are joint top of La Liga with 14 games left and are through to April’s King’s Cup final to face Real Madrid.

Coach Gerardo Martino said on Friday that he could obviously not ignore the situation but wanted to focus on matches.

“I am not surprised and it is not something I can ignore either,” the Argentine, in his first season in charge at the Nou Camp, told a news conference previewing Saturday’s La Liga game at Real Sociedad.”I guess the players already know what it is all about. But it is not something I should talk about,” he added.

Alba out of Sociedad tie

Barcelona full back Jordi Alba has failed to shrug off a thigh strain and will miss Saturday’s La Liga match at Real Sociedad, the Spanish champions said on Friday. The Spain international, who spent more than two months on the sidelines with a hamstring problem before Christmas, played in the 2-0 win at Manchester City in Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg. However, tests conducted when the squad returned to the Catalan capital on Wednesday confirmed Alba’s injury, representing a blow to coach Gerardo Martino at a critical stage of the season.

“The discomfort caused by the strain in the muscles at the back of the right thigh remains and therefore the player is rested as a precaution for the (Sociedad) match,” Barca said. Barca, chasing a fifth La Liga title in six years, are joint top on 60 points with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid with 14 games left.

The Catalan club have two more La Liga games, at home to Almeria on March 2 and at Real Valladolid the following weekend, before they host City in the return leg on March 12.

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