The investigation into the refereeing scandal involving FC Barcelona accelerated on Thursday with the search of the Spanish refereeing department in the premises of a Federation already weakened by the Rubiales scandal.
Called the “Negreira affair”, in reference to José Maria Enriquez Negreira, the former senior official of Spanish arbitration at the center of the investigation, this scandal has poisoned the life of Barça for months, which denies any irregularity.
On Thursday, the investigation took on a new dimension, the Barcelona court in charge of the case having indicated in a press release that it had “ordered a search of the headquarters of the Technical Committee of Arbitrators” (CTA).
The Civil Guard confirmed to AFP that it was carrying out this search in the premises of this committee located within the football federation in Las Rozas, near Madrid, and specified that no arrests were planned.
Contacted by the tax authorities regarding possible irregularities in the payment of taxes by a company belonging to Mr. Negreira, former vice-president of the CTA between 1994 and 2018, the prosecution opened a preliminary investigation in spring 2022.
FC Barcelona, its former presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell as well as Mr. Negreira and his son have been charged in particular with “corruption” in this affair since March.
According to the prosecution, the Catalan club paid a total of more than 7.3 million euros to Mr. Negreira. Payments, made via the company Dasnil 95, belonging to the former arbitrator, which began in 2001 and ended in 2018 when the latter lost his position as N.2 in Spanish arbitration and the Spanish CTA been restructured.
“Desired effects on arbitration”
Barça, which has also been the subject of a UEFA investigation since the end of March, maintains that Dasnil 95 was paid to advise the club on refereeing matters. But Spanish justice suspects that these sums could have been used to corrupt game directors.
In a document published Thursday, the judge in charge of the case indicates “deduce” from the elements available to him “that the payments (from the club to Negreira) produced the effects desired by FC Barcelona on the arbitration”.
Another element supporting the accusation, according to the judge, is the sending by Negreira of a “threatening letter” to the club after the payments were stopped, showing that he was “aware that quite serious illegal acts had taken place. products in favor of FC Barcelona.
“Barça has never bought referees and never intended to buy any, let that be clear,” the current president of FC Barcelona, Joan Laporta, assured in March.
On a sporting level, FC Barcelona risks nothing, at least in Spain: the facts, more than five years old, are in fact considered prescribed. But on the criminal level, its former leaders risk prison sentences.
The acceleration of the investigation into this arbitration scandal comes as Spanish football has been plunged into chaos since the end of August by the affair of the forced kiss of the former Spanish football boss Luis Rubiales to the player Jenni Hermoso, just after the world coronation of the “Women’s Roja”.
The courts also took up this matter and charged Mr. Rubiales with “sexual assault” and “coercion” due to the pressure exerted on the player and her relatives by Rubiales and his entourage.
Two days after the hearing of Hermoso's brother and a friend, the former coach of the women's team Jorge Vilda, a close friend of Rubiales dismissed at the beginning of September, was in turn indicted on Wednesday.
Spanish football is also once again shaken by its old demons, an 8-year-old girl wearing a jersey of Real Madrid striker Vinicius Jr, having been the victim of racist insults from Atlético Madrid supporters Sunday before the Madrid derby.
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