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Soccer: Neymar cleared in tax evasion case, father says

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Barcelona striker Neymar has been cleared of any criminal charges in a long-running tax evasion case in Brazil, the player’s father said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Football Soccer - Barcelona training - Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey, U.S. - July 21, 2017 - Barcelona's Neymar trains ahead of International Champions Cup. REUTERS/Mike Segar

“It is with great happiness that we received the news of the shelving of the Public Ministry’s case of tax evasion,” Neymar’s father wrote in a statement sent to Reuters.

“The process is officially closed (and) that proves the legality of all our acts.”

Brazil’s federal tax office charged Neymar in 2015 with evading 63 million reais ($19.94 million) in taxes due on income earned from the Santos and Barcelona soccer clubs and sponsors between 2011 and 2014.

Neymar appealed last year and a court ruling in his favor in March halved the penalty of 200 million reais in fines, back-taxes and interest that Brazil’s tax office had slapped on the player.

The 25-year-old had still faced the prospect, however, of a separate criminal prosecution brought by federal prosecutors. This has now been shelved, his father said on Wednesday.

“These were four years of unfounded accusations that me, my family and the employees of my companies suffered through, in every possible way,” Neymar’s father added on Wednesday.

“Although many people doubted it, there is justice in our country. Charge by charge, one after the other, they were knocked down by our defense, leaving it explicitly clear that we did not avoid paying one cent of tax.

“I hope we can now concentrate on our work and that my family has the peace it deserves.”

Neymar’s future on the pitch is the subject of speculation, with the player linked in Spanish and French media with a transfer to Paris St Germain.

Neymar said last week he was happy at Barcelona but he has yet to state definitively where he will play next season.

He is currently on a pre-season tour with Barcelona in the United States and is expected to play in Wednesday’s match against Manchester United in Maryland.

Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Toby Davis