Brazilian authorities have frozen assets worth almost $50m belonging to football star Neymar da Silva Santos Junior over alleged tax evasion, local media has reported.
The striker’s personal yacht, jet, bank accounts, and properties in six Brazilian cities were blocked over charges that he, his family and related businesses owe about $16m in taxes allegedly evaded from 2011 to 2013.
Authorities ordered assests valued at three times the alleged evaded amount be frozen, in accordance with Brazilian law in cases of deliberate evasion.
A Sao Paulo federal court rejected an appeal from Neymar, who denies any wrongdoing, last week over the allegations and started issuing warrants to freeze his assets.
Iagaro Jung Martins, an auditor with Brazil’s federal tax agency, told the Associated Press news agency that Neymar is not likely to go to jail if he pays what regulators say he owes.
“He can still appeal that decision, but it is a step forward,” Martins said. “Nothing changed to what was in place last year: if he pays what he owes, the case is closed. Our legislation isn’t too harsh.”
The asset seizure is the latest in a streak of controversy surrounding the 23-year-old player for the Spanish football club Barcelona.
On February 2, Neymar and his father were questioned for three hours in a court in Spain’s capital Madrid about the player’s transfer from the Brazilian club Santos to Barcelona. The case was brought by Grupo Sonda, which invested in Neymar early in his career and was allegedly entitled to 40 percent of the total transfer amount.
Barcelona maintains the deal cost the club $74m. Santos officially received a payment of $18.5m, with the remaining $55.5m going to a company owned by his father.
But investigations in Spain later showed that Barcelona spent nearly $90m to acquire Neymar.
Former and current presidents of the Barcelona club and representatives of Santos were also questioned over the case.
In May last year Santos filed a lawsuit with FIFA seeking compensation for a breach of contract.
All parties deny any wrongdoing.
Neymar’s fellow Barcelona star Lionel Messi and Messi’s father will also face tax fraud allegations in a Barcelona court on May 31.