Catalan police arrested 4 individuals — together with former president Josep Maria Bartomeu — after raiding Barcelona’s stadium on Monday in a search and seizure operation, including to the membership’s turmoil lower than every week earlier than it holds presidential elections.
The operation was associated to final yr’s “Barçagate,” in which membership officers have been accused of launching a smear marketing campaign towards present and former gamers who have been vital of the membership and then-president Bartomeu.
Police didn’t say who have been taken into custody however presidential candidate Joan Laporta confirmed Spanish media reviews that Bartomeu was amongst these detained.
“Facing what occurred immediately with the raids on the membership’s headquarters and the detentions of Barça’s ex-president Josep Maria Bartomeu and different executives of the membership, our crew wish to categorical our utmost respect in direction of the actions performed by the judiciary and police authorities in addition to utmost respect in direction of the precept of presumption of innocence,” Laporta mentioned. “We are deeply saddened by these occasions that trigger huge hurt to the picture of our membership.”
Members of the police’s monetary crimes division performed the operation in 5 completely different places, together with “some particular departments of the FC Barcelona workplaces.” They mentioned they have been investigating “alleged crimes associated to property and socio-economic order.”
Among these the Spanish media claimed have been detained have been membership CEO Óscar Grau and authorized division chief Román Gómez Ponti. Jaume Masferrer, Bartomeu’s former chief of workers, additionally was allegedly detained. They have been taken to a police station for interrogation, Spanish media mentioned, and police additionally went to Bartomeu’s home looking for proof.
Authorities spent a number of hours on the crew headquarters looking out paperwork and speaking to staff.
“We wish to spotlight the angle and collaboration of the FC Barcelona in the data which have been made immediately and through the course of the investigation,” the police mentioned in an announcement. “The investigation, which has been happening for nearly a yr, continues to be ongoing.”
The membership, mired in debt of greater than 1.1 billion euros ($1.3 billion), mentioned it supplied “full collaboration to the authorized and police authorities to assist clarify details that are topic to investigation.” It added the case was associated “to the contacting of monitoring providers on social networks.”
“The data and documentation requested by the judicial police drive relate strictly to the details relative to this case. FC Barcelona (expresses) its utmost respect for the judicial course of in place and for the precept of presumed innocence for the individuals affected inside the remit of this investigation.”
The membership didn’t point out Bartomeu. A textual content message despatched to Bartomeu was not instantly answered.
Laporta, one of many three presidential candidates in elections on Sunday, informed Lleida Radio that what occurred on Monday “was a consequence of the unhealthy administration by the earlier administration.” He mentioned the information of Bartomeu’s detention was “stunning” and “not good” for the membership, however pressured that the previous president deserved the “presumption of innocence.”
Laporta was Barcelona’s president a decade in the past and, like Bartomeu, additionally confronted a no-confidence vote throughout his time in cost.
Barcelona had denied accusations that it employed — and overpaid — an organization to make damaging feedback about its personal gamers and opponents on social media in order to spice up the picture of senior membership officers.
The firm was accused of utilizing faux social media accounts to discredit opposition figures after they expressed views that went towards the membership. Some of the figures supposedly included gamers such Lionel Messi and Gerard Piqué, in addition to former coach Pep Guardiola.
The membership later launched an impartial audit report exhibiting that there was no wrongdoing.
Bartomeu and his board of administrators resigned final yr amid fallout from the controversy surrounding Messi. The membership has been mired in political turmoil and debt prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The membership has been managed by a caretaker board since Bartomeu left in October whereas going through a no-confidence movement supported by 1000’s of membership members livid on the crew’s poor performances and the membership’s monetary state of affairs.
The membership’s struggles started to floor after the crew’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League final season, which was the primary with no title for the Spanish membership since 2007-08.
Bartomeu was loudly criticized by Messi, particularly after the previous president denied the participant’s request to go away the membership on the finish of final season. Messi’s contract ends this season and the Argentine nice has but to say whether or not he’ll keep or go.
Barcelona is 5 factors off the Spanish league lead. It misplaced at residence to Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 in the primary leg of the spherical of 16 of the Champions League and was overwhelmed by Sevilla 2-0 in the primary leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals.