France investigates tax breaks in PSG's Neymar transfer

France’s finance and economy ministries were raided earlier this week as part of an investigation into the 2017 transfer of Brazilian football superstar Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain, according to AFP.

The operations were carried out by police officers from the Central Office for the Fight Against Combating Corruption and Fiscal Fraud (OCLCIFF) and the National Police Inspectorate (IGPN) in the presence of investigating magistrates Vincent Lemonier and Serge Tournaire, a second source close to the matter told AFP. 

Investigators searched several departments of the General Directorate of Public Finances (DGFIP), including the office of former director general Jérôme Fournel, recently appointed chief of staff to Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire. These suspicions are part of a magistrate’s investigation into the influence peddling of the club’s former communications director, 57-year-old Jean-Martial Ribes, which has been ongoing since September 2022.

The magistrates are questioning whether the former Macronist vice-president of the National Assembly, Hugues Renson, sought “tax advantages” for PSG in the transfer of the Brazilian superstar to the club’s capital for 222 million euros – the most expensive in history.  

In an investigative report sent to the examining magistrate on 21 November, the IGPN questioned the possibility of “influence peddling” by Hugues Renson. According to this report, the former “dircom” clearly “requested (…) the services” of the former advisor to Jacques Chirac at the Élysée, on the basis of 10 years of messages with him found on Mr Ribes’s phone.

The former vice-president of the National Assembly stated on 24 July that he had informed Gérald Darmanin, the then Minister of Public Accounts, of a “PSG-related matter”, apparently concerning the taxation of the transfer. Gérald Darmanin “agreed (…). The important thing is to produce these documents. They will protect you”, Hugues Renson wrote to Jean-Martial Ribes in particular.

At the time, the minister publicly “welcomed the taxes Neymar would be able to pay in France”. He also assured the public that his services would closely monitor the transfer’s financial arrangements. On 3 August, the historic agreement, worth 222 million euros, was finalised and announced.  When asked, Gérald Darmanin’s entourage refused to comment on this search. Darmanin was Minister of Action and Public Accounts from 2017 to 2020.

Neymar joined Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona in 2017 for a world-record fee of 222 million euros ($242m) and, despite a series of injuries, scored 118 goals in 173 appearances. He left the French club last year to join Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal, becoming the latest world-famous footballer to be snapped up by the big-spending Saudi professional league. 

He will earn 100 million euros per season in Saudi Arabia, according to a source close to the negotiations, while PSG will pocket €100 million in the deal.

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