Anti-corruption office to take on Barça’s Negreira scandal

Madrid, Mar 14 (EFE).- Anti-corruption prosecutors will take over the investigation into payments made by FC Barcelona to a former senior referee official in a case that has sent shockwaves through Spanish football.

Spain’s state attorney general said in a decree Tuesday that the case would be transferred due to the high-profile nature of the allegations.

A Barcelona court handling the case on Friday indicted Barça, club officials including former presidents Jose Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rossell, and José María Enríquez Negreira, the former vice president of the Technical Committee of Referees (CTA) who is at the heart of the scandal, on charges of corruption, breach of trust and false documentation.

The latest development in the case that has embroiled the Catalan club comes four weeks after reports first emerged in Spain that it had paid Negreira’s consultancy company over 7.3 million euros between 2001 and 2018.

A probe was launched into the matter after tax authorities examined payments totaling over a million euros made by Barcelona to the firm between 2016-18, at which point Negreira left the CTA.

The club has acknowledged the payments, saying it had received technical reports on refereeing as part of the deal, which Barca insists was above board.

The prosecution has argued that, through presidents Rosell and Bartomeu, the club “reached and maintained” a “strictly confidential verbal agreement” with Negreira so that, “in exchange for money”, he would “favor FC Barcelona in the decision making of the referees in the matches it played” and in the “results of the competitions.”

The scandal has led to a clamor of finger pointing and accusations in Spanish football.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas called on Barcelona’s current president, Joan Laporta, who also held the office between 2003-10, to step down in the wake of the allegations.

Laporta said he would do no such thing.

On Monday, the Barcelona chairman told a private meeting of captains that the club was coming under “ferocious attacks” by those who wanted to “dirty our badge.”

“Motivated by envy, some are trying to erode our reputation with campaigns that come from bad faith,” he said.

Barcelona’s archrivals Real Madrid also decided to wade into the fray, releasing a statement Monday to say it would be present at the trial “when the judge opens it up to the affected parties.”

It added: “Real Madrid wishes to express its utmost concern regarding the gravity of the facts and reiterates its confidence in the legal system.”

To protest the scandal, Athletic Club fans threw fake bank notes onto the pitch ahead of their 0-1 loss to the Catalans in Bilbao on Sunday.

Barcelona will meet Real Madrid in a league Clásico on Sunday.EFE


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