Spanish justice on Friday indicted FC Barcelona and some of its former leaders for “corruption”, “breach of trust” and “false business records” in the case of suspicious payments of money from the Catalan club to Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, ex-senior official of Spanish arbitration, also prosecuted.
These proceedings, decided by the Barcelona public prosecutor’s office, target Barça as a legal entity, as well as Josep Maria Bartomeu, head of FC Barcelona between 2014 and 2020, and Sandro Rosell, president of the Catalan club between 2010 and 2014. Oscar Grau and Albert Soler, members of Mr Bartomeu’s former team, are also being prosecuted.
Seized by the tax authorities on possible irregularities in the payment of taxes by a company belonging to Enriquez Negreira, the prosecution had opened a preliminary investigation in the spring of 2022 in order to verify the reason and the framework for these payments of money.
“FC Barcelona has obtained and maintained a strictly confidential verbal agreement with José Maria Enriquez Negreira so that, in his capacity as vice-president of the Technical Arbitral Committee (CTA) and in exchange for money, the latter carries out actions tending to benefit FC Barcelona in the decision-making of the referees”, explained the prosecution.
Seven million euros
The announcement of proceedings against Barça and its former presidents, which is now in the hands of the Barcelona N.1 investigating court, marks an important step in the judicialization of this arbitration scandal, likely to weaken the Blaugrana club.
According to the prosecution, the Catalan club paid a total of more than 7.3 million euros to José Maria Enriquez Negreira, former referee and ex-vice president of the technical arbitration committee of the Spanish football federation between 1994 and 2018.
These payments, made through the company Dasnil 95, belonging to Mr. Negreira, began in 2001 and ended in 2018, when the latter lost his position as N.2 of Spanish arbitration and the Spanish CTA was restructured.
According to FC Barcelona, which denies any irregularities, Dasnil 95 was paid to advise the club on arbitration matters. But the Spanish justice thinks that the sums in question could have been used to corrupt game directors.
“Barça have never bought referees”
“Barça has never bought referees and has never intended to buy any, let that be clear,” current FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta assured on Tuesday during a meeting. press conference. A message consistent with that of Mr. Negreira, who denies any favors done to Barça.
On the sporting level, FC Barcelona does not risk anything, at least in Spain: the facts, more than five years old, are indeed considered prescribed, according to the president of LaLiga Javier Tebas. We do not yet know at this stage the position of UEFA and FIFA.
On the criminal level, the leaders implicated risk sentences of six months to four years in prison. Sanctions against Barça could range from ‘suspension of the activity’ of the club ‘to its outright dissolution’ as a company, according to Alberto Palomar, professor of law at Carlos III University of Madrid, consulted by AFP.
The Negreira case has cast doubt on Spain’s refereeing body, which last week issued a manifesto demanding that a person’s alleged actions not “tarnish” the “image” and “honor” of the occupation.
“The problem concerns us because it harms Spanish football and sport,” Spanish Culture and Sports Minister Miquel Iceta said on Tuesday.
Arbitration corruption scandal: new revelations shake Barça
Barça at the heart of an arbitration corruption case