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La Liga: Barcelona charged with corruption

Barcelona charged with corruption over payments made to former referee chief

March 10, 2023 By Emmanuel K. Budu-Annor
The Catalans have been charged over payments to former referees' official Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira.

Spanish football giants Barcelona have been charged with corruption over alleged illegal payments made to a company owned by the former vice-president of Spain's referees' committee, Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira. The La Liga club is said to have made those transfers between 2001 and 2018, with two former presidents also said to be involved in the scandal.

Spain's public prosecutor's office have announced that a complaint had been filed against the Catalan giants and ex-presidents Rosell and Bartomeu, as well as two other former Barca officials, over alleged payments to a company owned by the senior refereeing official to influence match results. The club is said to have paid over $7.3m (£6.4m) in the 17-year period to Enriquez Negreira, who held the role at the Spanish football association between 1993 and 2018.

According to prosecutors, under a secret agreement and "in exchange for money", Negreira favoured Barcelona "in the decisions taken by referees in the games played by the club, as well as in the results of the competitions". The investigations were said to have been triggered by a tax inspection.

Back in February, Barcelona denied any wrongdoing in a statement, saying they had simply paid an external consultant that supplied them with "technical reports related to professional refereeing", calling it "a common practice among professional football clubs". However, the club has now been charged with corruption, and the investigations are expected to begin properly.

On Friday, a senior official of the club told Reuters that they expected the complaint, but said it was "nothing more than an absolutely preliminary investigative hypothesis" from the prosecutors and that proper judicial investigation will now begins. The official added that "the club will fully cooperate with the investigation in all means necessary" and "reiterates that they have never bought any referee nor have tried to influence any official's decisions."

The charges against Barcelona come at a difficult time for the club, which is already struggling financially due to embezzlement by past adminstrations and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The situation has forced the club to cut player salaries and favor the signing the signing of free agents as they face a significant debt crisis. 

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