Barcelona charged with corruption for payments made to former referee

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Barcelona have been charged with corruption over payments they made to the vice-president of Spanish football’s refereeing committee.

Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, who held that role between 1994 and 2018, is also facing charges of corruption in a case brought by the Spanish public prosecutor’s office, as is Josep Maria Bartomeu, Barca president from 2014-2020, and Sandro Rosell, president from 2010-2014.

Enriquez Negreira has denied ever favouring Barcelona in terms of refereeing decisions. Barca have explained they hired an “external consultant” who provided reports “related to professional refereeing” and also deny any wrongdoing. All parties — Barca, Enriquez Negreira, Bartomeu and Rosell — have been approached for comment by The Athletic.

If Barca are found guilty, what might happen?

News emerged in mid-February that prosecutors were investigating payments made by Barca to DASNIL 95, a company owned by Enriquez Negreira, between 2001 and 2018.

They began their investigation in May 2022, when tax inspectors alerted them to alleged irregularities in DASNIL’s financial records. On Friday, prosecutors put a figure on the total value of these payments: over €7.3million (£6.4m; $7.8m) was paid by Barca to DASNIL, and a second company owned by Enriquez Negreira, NILSAT.

Barcelona, as a legal entity, have now been charged with the crime of ‘continued corruption in business’.

The Spanish law relating to this crime was established in 2010. Since 2015, it has included a specific section targeting corruption in sport when it is suspected an attempt has been made to “pre-determine or alter in a deliberate and fraudulent manner the result of a match or competition”.

‘Continued’ corruption means the crime is believed to have taken place over a sustained period rather than being a one-off. This means the potential punishments are bigger, and can include up to four years in prison for individuals, or professional disqualification and fines for groups or enterprises.

In documents presented to a Barcelona court on Friday, prosecutors said: “FC Barcelona reached and maintained a strictly confidential verbal agreement with Enriquez Negreira so that, in his capacity as vice-president of the CTA (Spanish football’s referee’s committee) and in exchange for money, he would carry out actions tending to favour Barcelona in the decision making of referees in the matches played by the club.”


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