Brazilian soccer star Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, popularly known as Neymar, has been fined 16 million Brazilian reals — a little over $3.3 million U.S. dollars — by his home country’s government. He’s accused of illegally constructing a man-made lake at his mansion in the city of Mangaratiba outside Rio de Janeiro, the AP reported.
According to a statement released by the Mangaratiba City Hall, officials noticed dozens of infractions at the player’s property that seemed to be the start of unauthorized construction. Those infractions included the capture and detour of a river course, the movement of rock and sand, and the suppression of vegetation.
“Among the dozens of infractions that were noticed at the player’s property are the start of an unauthorized construction which requires environmental control; capture of a river course and detouring it without authorization; moving rock and sand; supressing vegetation without authorization and non-compliance of an embargo,” the statement read.
Documents obtained by the AP revealed that local authorities visited Neymar on a Thursday and were forbidden from entering his lake because of “environmental consequences.” The following day, Neymar threw a party to celebrate its completion. This resulted in four separate fines that totaled a whopping 16 million Brazilian reals.
Genesis Ecossistemas, the company that constructed the lake, said the project took 10 days and posted a video of the final product on its Instagram page.
The ordeal is a prime example of how wealthy people are able to avoid following environmental laws as long as they are enforced with one-off fines. If Neymar was continually fined until he removed his lake and rectified the environmental damage he caused, that might have resulted in a different outcome. However, there is no indication that that will be the case. Instead, it seems likely that Neymar will simply be able to pay the fine (or appeal the fines in court, and pay his lawyers instead) and keep his lake.
Currently, under contract with the Paris Saint-Germain soccer club, Neymar makes $36.5 million per season and is one of the top soccer players in the world. Factoring in endorsements, the 31-year-old could easily earn hundreds of millions more throughout the remainder of his career.
Brazil’s environmental protection laws were severely weakened under former president Jair Bolsonaro, although they are beginning to be brought back again under current president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Neymar previously supported and campaigned for Bolsonaro.
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