The case involving alleged payments made by the Barcelona soccer club to a business run by a senior refereeing official with the intention of influencing game outcomes has been accepted by a court in Barcelona.
The regional court announced on Wednesday that it would look into allegations of sports corruption, unfair administration, and document fabrication against Barcelona and two former LaLiga club presidents, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu.
As a result of the allegations’ high-profile nature and the potential for serious corruption offenses, State Attorney General Alvaro Garcia Ortiz ordered on Tuesday that the case be transferred to the anti-corruption prosecutors office after prosecutors filed the complaint on Friday over alleged payments of more than 7.3 million euros to companies owned by Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira from 2001 to 2018.
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As soon as the judge accepted the complaint, the Spanish government and Real Madrid soccer team declared they would join it.
From 1993 to 2018, Negreira served as the vice-president of the Spanish Football Association’s refereeing committee, which was then led by Victoriano Sanchez Arminio.
Negreira allegedly favored Barcelona “in the judgments taken by referees in the games played by the club, as well as in the results of the competitions” under a covert arrangement and “in exchange for money,” according to the prosecution.
Negreira could not be reached by Reuters for comment.
The club had anticipated the prosecutors’ charge, according to a senior Barcelona official, who also dismissed it as “nothing more than an absolutely preliminary investigative hypothesis” in a statement to Reuters on Friday.
The official affirmed that the club has “never bought any referee nor have tried to influence any official’s judgments” and that they will fully assist with the probe.
The football club said in a statement last month that it had engaged an outside consultant who provided it with “technical reports relevant to professional officiating,” but denied any misconduct had taken place. It claimed that professional football teams frequently engaged in this behavior.
“I am looking forward to confronting all the scoundrels who are tarnishing our shield,” Barcelona president Joan Laporta told an event held by the club with the captains of the different Barcelona teams on Monday.
The case from the prosecution centers on 2.9 million euros paid from 2014 to 2018 and asserts that Barcelona and Negreira came to a “secret verbal arrangement” with the aid of former presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu.