FC Barcelona Club Presidents charged with ‘continued corruption’ for Bribing Refs

FC Barcelona Club Presidents charged with ‘continued corruption’ for Bribing Refs

10 Mar 2023 ( CNN )
FC Barcelona
 was charged on Friday by the Barcelona provincial prosecutor’s office with “continued corruption between individuals in the sports field” in addition to other charges in relation to an alleged payment scandal which has rocked Spanish soccer.

Former FCB presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, former club CEO Oscar Grau, former club director of professional sports Albert Soler and José María Enríquez Negreira – a former leading refereeing official in Spain – have also been charged.

In a written complaint from the Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office sent to CNN, Barça and the other accused have also been charged with “the crime of continued false administration and the crime of continued falsification of commercial documents.”

The charges were presented to the No. 1 magistrate’s court in Barcelona.

An FCB source told CNN that the club did not have an official statement, though its first reaction was that the charges were to be expected after recent events, but that the report was an “absolutely preliminary investigative hypothesis” and that the club would assist the investigation in any way possible. The source also strongly denied that the club had at any time bribed a referee or tried to influence refereeing decisions.

Spanish lawyer Jose Maria Fuster Fabra confirmed to CNN that he’s representing Bartomeu in this case. “We are preparing the defense and we don’t think this case will go to trial,” he said, declining to make further statements.

CNN has reached out to Enriquez Negreira’s company for comment.

CNN was unable to contact Rosell, Grau and Soler for comment.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the accused held positions of power in the club and were aware of payments which were invoiced annually from January 2011 until June 2018 to two companies that Enríquez Negreira – who was serving as a CTA vice president from 1993 to 2018 – founded, which “acted on behalf and in direct benefit to Barcelona.”

The CTA is the governing body responsible for deciding which referees and assistants officiate league and national competitive matches in Spain.

The club is accused of – through both Rosell and Bartomeu – coming to a “strictly confidential verbal agreement” with Enríquez Negreira with the aim to “produce actions which tended to favor Barcelona in the form of refereeing decisions.”

“Subsequently, the companies of the accused, [Nisdal SCP] and [Dasnil 95 SL], produced invoices which were presented for payment to FCB without having to produce any services of real technical reports,” the report said.

The report from the Barcelona’s Prosecutor’s Office outlines that the two companies connected to Enríquez Negreira were founded by him and he held 100% and 95% of the shares in Dasnil 95 and Nisdal respectively.

According to the report, an audit was started by the tax authorities in 2019 into Enríquez Negreira’s companies in which they asked Barcelona to provide copies of invoices and method of payment. Because Barcelona was not able to satisfy the authorities’ questions, the club incurred a tax penalty and an investigation was later opened into Enríquez Negreira and his companies for the time period of 2016 to 2019.

The investigation discovered that the club paid his two companies a total of $3,175,589.21 (€2,971,673.01) between those years, mostly under the pretense of “assessment of technical videos.” After Enríquez Negreira was relieved of his vice presidency at the CTA in 2018, the payments from Barcelona stopped.

In February 2019, Enríquez Negreira sent a fax directed towards Bartomeu “recriminating him for ending the long-lasting relationship, insisting that a solution be found for both parties and warning him of the consequences of not doing so,” according to the report.

“I don’t have the will to give attention to all of the irregularities I’ve known and lived first-hand with anyone at the Club, but you are forcing me to do so if you don’t reconsider your decision and complete the agreement we had to continue using my services until the end of my presidential mandate,” Enríquez Negreira wrote.

According to the report, the total amount Barça paid Enríquez Negreira’s companies from 2001 to 2018 during his vice-presidency in the CTA surpassed $7.8 million (€7.3 million).

“This resulted in a substantial remuneration, unforeseen by the statutes of the Club nor which was approved by the General Assembly, which should have been given its nature. Definitively, said payments neither had legal or statutory support at all.”

In February, Barcelona said that a “thorough and independent investigation” was underway.

European football governing body UEFA declined to comment on whether it is investigating the club. However, in a press conference earlier in March, Spanish football federation (RFEF) secretary general Andreu Camps said the organization had sent all of its information relating to the case to UEFA’s integrity unit.

CNN has reached out to FIFA for comment.