THE CURRENT president of Spanish football club FC Barcelona has been formally accused by a judge of bribery thanks to evidence that multi-million-euro payments were made to a high-ranking referee. The charges being faced by Joan Laporta relate to his first tenure at the head of the club, from 2003 to 2010.
The judge had previously stated that he could not accuse Laporta of wrongdoing, as the alleged offences had exceeded the statute of limitations under Spanish law.
But according to reports in Spanish media, the magistrate has since revised the timescales and changed his criteria.
Laporta will be facing charges of continuous bribery for payments made between 2008 and 2010 to the former vice-president of Spain’s Technical Referee’s Committee, Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira.
The two presidents who succeeded Laporta, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, are also facing charges for the same offences, while the judge is reportedly investigating Laporta’s colleagues at the time. The names of these figures, who were responsible for making the payments to Negreira, have not so far been made public.
Negreira and his son are alleged to have received €7.3 million from FC Barcelona between 2001 and 2018.
The scandal broke in February this year, after a tax inspection revealed payments of hundreds of thousands of euros to a company owned by Negreira. The information was passed on to state prosecutors who then began a corruption investigation given that there was no documentary evidence of any services being provided by said company.
Shortly after, Laporta made a statement confirming that the payments had been made but claiming that Negreira’s work as an adviser to provide reports about refereeing was ‘very normal’.
Negreira is also alleged to have threatened to air the dirty laundry of FC Barcelona in 2018, after his payments were cut off by the club. There is no evidence, however, to suggest that he did this.
If found guilty of continuous bribery, Laporta could be facing six to seven and a half years in jail.