Barcelona confirm police search at club offices, several arrests made

By AFP 16m in the past

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BARCELONA – Barcelona confirmed on Monday police raided the club’s places of work as a part of an investigation into the hiring of a company to enhance the picture of former president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Several arrests have been made, a Catalan regional police spokesman instructed AFP, simply six days forward of the club’s new presidential elections on Sunday.

Spain’s Cadena Ser radio mentioned a kind of arrested was Bartomeu, who resigned in October, together with CEO Oscar Grau and the club’s head of authorized companies Roma Gomez Ponti.

But Barcelona refused to touch upon arrests whereas the police wouldn’t confirm names, saying solely that “arrests are taking place” and including that the operation was being run by officers from the monetary crimes unit.

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“We are in the process of carrying out an operation right now with agents of the financial crimes unit,” the police spokesman instructed AFP.

Barcelona mentioned the operation is linked to final year’s investigation into the ‘BarcaGate’ scandal, wherein the club was accused of overlaying up funds to a company known as I3 Ventures, employed to spice up the picture of then-president Bartomeu on social media.

Part of the marketing campaign included criticising present and former gamers, like Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola and Xavi Hernandez. Messi described the controversy as “strange” in an interview with Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo.

A club assertion on Monday learn: “Regarding the entry and search by the Catalan Police force this morning at the Camp Nou offices by order of the Instructing Court number 13 in Barcelona, which is in charge of the case relating to the contacting of monitoring services on social networks, FC Barcelona have offered up their full collaboration to the legal and police authorities to help make clear facts which are subject to investigation.

“The information and documentation requested by the judicial police force relate strictly to the facts relative to this case.”

Cadena Ser claimed Barca paid I3 Ventures an inflated payment and put funds by means of in smaller, separate quantities to keep away from the club’s monetary controls.

Emili Rousaud, who resigned as Barcelona vice-president in March final year, mentioned in an interview with RAC1: “If the auditors tell us the cost of these services is 100,000 euros and we have paid one million, it means someone has had their hand in the till.” The club took authorized motion towards him.

Rousaud was amongst six Barca executives to go away their posts, with a joint letter citing the controversy as a key situation needing to be resolved.

‘Plugging gaps’

Bartomeu mentioned the company had been employed solely to watch posts on social media and introduced an inside audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which cleared the club of monetary corruption in July.

“Let one thing be clear,” Bartomeu mentioned. “To the question: Have we commissioned the monitoring of social networks? The answer is yes.

“To the question: Have we commissioned to discredit folks or establishments by means of social networks? The answer isn’t any and we’ll take motion towards all those that accuse us of that.”

Bartomeu resigned in October, avoiding a vote of no confidence triggered after more than 20,000 club members signed a petition against him.

His departure came the same month Barcelona announced losses of 97 million euros ($114m) for last season and debts that had more than doubled to 488 million euros.

As well as a series of political blunders, Bartomeu had also overseen a dramatic decline in performances on the pitch and a personal falling-out with Messi, who tried to leave for free last summer.

Messi accused the club of “all the time juggling every part and plugging gaps” under Bartomeu’s leadership.

Bartomeu’s successor is due to be elected on Sunday, when club members will choose between the final three candidates, Joan Laporta, Toni Freixa and Victor Font.

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