FC Barcelona was charged on Friday by Barcelona’s provincial prosecutor’s office with “ongoing corruption between individuals in the field of sports” among other charges in connection with an alleged payment scandal that has rocked Spanish soccer.
Former FCB presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, the club’s former chief executive Oscar Grau, the club’s former director of professional sports Albert Soler and José María Enríquez Negreira – a former top refereeing official in Spain – have also been charged.
In a written complaint from the Barcelona Public Prosecutor’s Office sent to CNN, Barça and the other defendants are also accused of “the crime of continued false administration and the crime of continued falsification of commercial documents.”
The charges were presented at Barcelona’s No. 1 Magistrate’s Court.
An FCB source told CNN that the club had no official statement, although its first reaction was that the accusations were to be expected after the recent events, but that the report was an “absolutely preliminary investigative case” and that the club would assist the research in every possible way. The source also categorically denied that the club had ever bribed a referee or tried to influence refereeing decisions.
Spanish lawyer Jose Maria Fuster Fabra confirmed to CNN that he is representing Bartomeu in this case. “We are preparing the defense and we do not believe this case will go to trial,” he said, declining to comment further.
CNN has reached out to Enriquez Negreira’s company for comment.
CNN could not reach 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 invoiced annually from January 2011 to June 2018 to two companies that Enríquez Negreira – who served as CTA vice president from 1993 to 2018 – was established, which “acted on behalf and for the direct benefit of Barcelona”.
The CTA is the governing body responsible for deciding which referees and assistants will referee league and national matches in Spain.
The club are accused of – through Rosel and Bartomeu – coming to a “strictly confidential verbal agreement” with Enrique Negreira aimed at “producing actions that tended to favor Barcelona in the form of arbitration rulings”.
“Subsequently, the defendants’ companies, [Nisdal SCP] and [Dasnil 95 SL]produced invoices which were presented for payment to FCB without having to provide actual technical report services,” the report said.
The report from the Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office highlights that the two companies linked 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, tax authorities launched an audit in 2019 of Enríquez Negreira’s companies to which they asked Barcelona to provide copies of invoices and payment method. As Barcelona were unable to satisfy the authorities’ questions, the club was slapped with a tax penalty and later launched an investigation into Enrique Negreira and his companies for the period 2016-2019.
The investigation found that the club paid its two companies a total of $3,175,589.21 (€2,971,673.01) between those years, mostly under the guise of “video technical evaluations.” After Enríquez Negreira was relieved of his CTA vice presidency in 2018, payments from Barcelona stopped.
In February 2019, Enrique Negreira sent a fax to Bartomeu “accusing him of ending the long-term relationship, insisting that a solution be found for both parties and warning him of the consequences if he does not,” according to the report.
“I don’t have the will to call attention to all the improprieties I’ve known and experienced first hand with anyone at the Club, but you’re forcing me to if you don’t reconsider your decision and complete the deal we had to continue using my services until the end of my presidency,” wrote Enrique Negreira.
According to the report, the total amount paid by Barca to Enriquez Negreira’s companies from 2001 to 2018 during his CTA vice-presidency exceeded $7.8 million (€7.3 million).
“This resulted in a significant fee, unforeseen by the Club’s constitution nor approved by the General Assembly, which should have been given its nature. Ultimately, the payments in question had no legal or legal backing.”
In February, Barcelona said a “thorough and independent investigation” was underway.
UEFA declined to comment on whether it is investigating the club. However, in a press conference earlier in March, the general secretary of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) Andreu Camps said the organization had sent all its information on the case to UEFA’s integrity unit.
CNN has reached out to FIFA for comment.