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Barcelona president named as suspect in US$107m Neymar deal

[MADRID] Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu was named as a suspect in an investigation into whether the soccer club evaded taxes in the US$107 million signing of Brazilian playmaker Neymar.

Spanish judge Pablo Ruz, in a written ruling, ordered Mr Bartomeu to attend a Feb 13 hearing and for the four-time European champion and the national tax agency to hand over documents relating to the case.

Prosecutor Jose Perals said in a statement yesterday that Bartomeu should be investigated after Barcelona failed to withhold 2.8 million euros (US$3.2 million) in taxes last year on income paid to N&N Consultoria Esportiva e Empresarial Ltda, a company owned by Neymar's parents.

Mr Perals also said former president Sandro Rosell and the club should stand trial for evading a further 9 million euros in payments to Neymar and his parents in 2011 and 2013. Neymar joined Barcelona in May 2013. Judge Ruz didn't immediately rule on that request.

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Barcelona said in a statement earlier on Tuesday it wanted to express its "utter disagreement" with the request to name Mr Bartomeu as a suspect. The club said neither it nor Rosell had committed any infractions, having received advice at all times from tax-law specialists.

Including tax, the cost of signing Neymar to Barcelona should have totalled as much as 94.9 million euros, or about US$107 million, according to Mr Perals.