Several high-profile French politicians allegedly plotted to avoid paying Qatar €88 million in tax over footballer Neymar Jr’s transfer to football club PSG in 2017, according to French sources. Authorities raided the Ministry of Economy and Finances’ headquarters earlier this week.
Authorities in France are investigating allegations that football club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) received favourable tax treatment over Brazilian football star Neymar Jr‘s 2017 transfer to the Qatar-owned club.
Anti-corruption officers raided France’s finance ministry earlier this week, according to reports, over suspicions politicians helped PSG to avoid paying a 40% tax on his record €222 million transfer deal to PSG, equalling €88 million.
Euronews Business breaks down the allegations.
What happened in 2017 around Neymar’s transfer?
Earlier in January, French investigative newspaper Mediapart revealed that several high-profile French politicians, including then-public accounts minister Gérald Darmanin, actively helped PSG bypass the compulsory tax on Neymar’s transfer.
In 2017, the football star was playing for FC Barcelona when PSG’s Qatari owners laid their eyes on him. The only way to take Neymar from the Spanish football club was to have him pay for his own release clause, set at a record €222 million.
PSG would transfer Neymar the money, so he could pay for it himself, as per his contract’s stipulations. But that meant the €222 million would be considered earnings and therefore subject to taxes under the rules of his next country of residence.
Digging into Football Leaks documents, French journalists found that several conversations and meetings took place between Darmanin (currently interior minister), one of his senior colleagues Jérôme Fournel (who was until recently head of the French tax office and has now been appointed to the economy ministry), as well as several PSG leaders and the club’s then-head of communication, Jean-Martial Ribes.
Following these exchanges, French tax authorities decided not to tax Neymar’s €222 million deal, saving PSG from paying an additional €88 million. French President Emmanuel Macron might have known, or even encouraged it, according to the same French sources.
Following the revelations, authorities launched an investigation. Anti-corruption police officers raided the Ministry of Economy and Finances’ headquarters on Monday, according to reports.
For now, Darmanin, Macron’s current interior minister, has not been charged.
However in December, French prosecutors went after Ribes and charged him with corruption offences, among other allegations. This took place under another separate investigation into lobbying practices involving Qatar, PSG and several French and Qatari politicians and influential men.
“Mr Ribes denies the allegations made against him and points out that all his actions during his many years with the PSG have always been in accordance with the law,” Ribes’ lawyer Romain Vanni told French newspaper Le Monde last month.
This other investigation isn’t new, and in 2022, PSG owner Nasser al-Khelaifi was already quoted in several reports as a person of interest.
The latest investigation regarding Neymar Jr’s multi-million euro transfer allegedly involves several of the same people. The same judges are in charge of both investigations.
Neither PSG nor al-Khelaifi immediately responded to Euronews Business’ request for comments.