The biggest transfer in the history of football is in the sights of justice. According to information from Mediapart confirmed to Le Monde, police officers carried out a search of the premises of the Ministry of Economy and Finance on Monday January 15 as part of a legal investigation in connection with Paris Saint-Germain ( PSG), suspected of having received favorable tax treatment during the transfer of Brazilian striker Neymar, who came from Barcelona, ​​in 2017.

The search was carried out by police officers from the central office for the fight against corruption and tax fraud (OCLCIFF) and the general inspectorate of the national police (IGPN), in the presence of investigating judges already responsible for the search. investigation into the “barbouzeries” around PSG. Several services of the General Directorate of Public Finances (DGFiP) were targeted, including, according to Mediapart, the office of the general director occupied until recently by Jérôme Fournel, since appointed director of the cabinet of the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire. .

Did PSG grant itself favors from the tax authorities so as not to increase the bill for the player’s purchase? Documents revealed by Libération and Mediapart indicate that in 2017 the club’s tax specialists were concerned about the risk of taxation on this already exorbitant payment of 222 million euros. The investigation into these new suspicions has barely begun. But it is part of an investigation carried out since September 2022 around influence operations attributed to Jean-Martial Ribes, the former communications director of PSG (2017-2022).

According to information from Le Monde, the latter has been indicted since December 1 for, among other things, “active corruption and influence peddling”, “complicity and concealment of misappropriation of the purpose of processing personal data”, ” usurpation of the identity of a third party with a view to disturbing their peace or damaging their honor or consideration” and “online moral harassment”. He disputes the facts with which he is accused.

“Tax benefits” for PSG

According to an IGPN investigation report sent to the investigating magistrate on November 21, revealed by Libération and consulted by Agence France-Presse (AFP), investigators examined ten years of messages found in Mr. Ribes’ phone. , until his departure from the club in May 2022, and in particular his exchanges with the former Macronist vice-president of the National Assembly, Hugues Renson. The former “dircom” of the club “requested (…) unequivocally (…) the services” of Mr. Renson, who was an advisor to Jacques Chirac at the Elysée, the report concludes. The IGPN questions whether Mr. Renson tried to obtain “tax benefits” for PSG from the government during the transfer, and is investigating possible “influence peddling” involving Mr. Renson, an offense punishable by ten years prison and a fine of one million euros, or double the proceeds of the offense, we tell Le Monde.

On July 24, 2017, in the middle of negotiations around Neymar’s arrival at PSG after payment to FC Barcelona of the release clause, Mr. Renson engaged, according to the report, in intense exchanges with Mr. Ribes but also with Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, the Qatari boss of PSG. He claims to have relayed to Gérald Darmanin, then Minister of Public Accounts (from 2017 to 2020), a “PSG subject”, which seems to be the taxation of the transfer. Gérald Darmanin “considers that it is good (…). What matters is that the documents we mentioned are produced. They will protect,” Mr. Renson wrote in particular to Jean-Martial Ribes.

At the time, the minister publicly “rejoiced at the taxes that Neymar [was] going to be able to pay in France”, and guaranteed that his services would closely analyze the financial arrangement of the transfer. On August 3, the historic deal worth 222 million euros was concluded and announced. Asked by the AFP, Mr. Darmanin’s entourage did not wish to react to this search.