Barcelona have released a statement defending both the club and its president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, over allegations of criminal wrongdoing in relation to the transfer of Neymar.
The Brazil international joined the Catalans from Santos in 2013 for a fee that was initially claimed to be €57.1 million yet it subsequently emerged that the true cost of the deal was closer to €86m, prompting the Spanish tax authorities to get involved.
Sandro Rossell resigned as Barca president to concentrate on fighting the allegations of tax evasion, while current incumbent Bartomeu has also maintained his innocence.
Prosecutor Jose Perals Calleja has now called for Rosell to be jailed for seven years and three months, for two counts of crime against the public treasury – in 2011 and 2013 – and one of corporate crime, while he also demanded that Bartomeu be imprisoned for two years and three months.
Furthermore, the authorities want Barca to pay a fine of €22.2m and all three parties – the club, Rossell and Bartomeu – to cough up an additional €11.5m.
Barca have now issued the following statement in response to the calls for jail time:
“The board has discussed the tax request for trial and punishment against FC Barcelona, its president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, and its former president Sandro Rosell, derived from the Neymar case. On this matter, the Board wants to clarify the following precepts:
“Both the club and its president have reiterated their complete innocence of an issue that only has a tax and not criminal aspect to it.
“The president of the club will proceed with his intention to run in the next presidential election despite this ‘great injustice’ and will continue to lead the company with the same level of seriousness, moral conduct and financial control, giving everything to ensure that Barca remains a benchmark.”
Meanwhile, Barca also confirmed that they want their Copa del Rey final clash with Athletic Bilbao on May 30 played at the Santiago Bernabeu – despite Real Madrid’s reluctance to stage the game.
“It would be the ground at which we could gather most members of the club,” the statement added.