PARIS — Police raided the French economy ministry over suspicions that Paris Saint-Germain obtained special tax treatment from the government for football star Neymar’s 2017 transfer from Barcelona, French media reported Thursday.
The growing scandal, centered around Qatari-owned PSG and the French economy ministry, has already put pressure on Gérald Darmanin — a heavyweight in Emmanuel Macron’s government — who was budget minister at the time.
The Paris prosecutor’s office told franceinfo that the raid, which happened Monday, was part of an ongoing investigation “in connection with the PSG” over suspected “bribery and influence peddling,” after investigative outlet Mediapart first reported it.
French prosecutors are looking into how Neymar’s record €222 million transfer was taxed, after French outlets Mediapart and Libération reported on exchanges and in-person meetings between PSG executives and French economy ministry officials at the time.
PSG feared it would have to pay up to tens of million in taxes over the record transfer and lobbied the economy ministry to sweeten the bill, according to documents obtained by both organizations.
According to Mediapart, the French economy ministry gave PSG advice to get around existing tax rules, shortly after a meeting between the PSG then-director of communication Jean-Martial Ribes and Darmanin’s chief of staff.
The French economy ministry declined to comment.
Earlier this week, Darmanin — who is now interior minister — declined to confirm or deny the story. He stressed, however, that France’s state coffers benefitted from Neymar’s transfer to Paris: “If Mr. Neymar hadn’t come, no taxes would have been paid, no soccer shirts with his name on them would have been sold, and no social security contributions would have come in,” he told reporters Monday.
The case has already sparked criticism, especially from the left-wing opposition.
France Unbowed’s Eric Coquerel, who chairs the financial committee of the French National Assembly, asked the French economy ministry to see the written note in which the fiscal administration reportedly reassured PSG that it would have to pay zero taxes on the deal.