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 per 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 in opposition to present and former gamers who have been essential 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 experiences that Bartomeu was amongst these detained.
“Facing what happened today with the raids at the club’s headquarters and the detentions of Barça’s ex-president Josep Maria Bartomeu and other executives of the club, our team want to express our utmost respect towards the actions conducted by the judiciary and police authorities as well as utmost respect towards the principle of presumption of innocence,” Laporta mentioned. “We are deeply saddened by these events that cause enormous harm to the image of our club.”
Members of the police’s monetary crimes division carried out the operation in 5 totally different places, together with “some specific departments of the FC Barcelona offices.” They mentioned they have been investigating “alleged crimes related 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 workforce headquarters looking paperwork and speaking to staff.
“We want to highlight the attitude and collaboration of the FC Barcelona in the records that have been made today and during the course of the investigation,” the police mentioned in a press release. “The investigation, which has been going on for almost a year, is still ongoing.”
The membership, mired in debt of greater than 1.1 billion euros ($1.3 billion), mentioned it provided “full collaboration to the legal and police authorities to help make clear facts which are subject to investigation.” It added the case was associated “to the contacting of monitoring providers on social networks.”
“The information and documentation requested by the judicial police force relate strictly to the facts relative to this case. FC Barcelona (expresses) its utmost respect for the judicial process in place and for the principle of presumed innocence for the people affected within 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, advised Lleida Radio that what occurred on Monday “was a consequence of the bad management by the previous administration.” He mentioned the information of Bartomeu’s detention was “shocking” and “not good” for the club, but stressed that the former 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 unfavorable 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 in opposition to 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 workforce’s poor performances and the membership’s monetary scenario.
The membership’s struggles started to floor after the workforce’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League final season, which was the primary with out a 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 depart 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 house 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.