The victory of the weekend against Sevilla FC is already far in the minds of Barcelona. The police raided the headquarters of FC Barcelona on Monday 1er March and arrested several people including its former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, according to several Spanish media including “La Vanguardia” or “El Pais”.
Agents from the “Mossos d’Esquadra” economic crime department, the Catalan regional police, took over the club’s offices on Monday morning located at Camp Nou, a Mossos spokesperson told AFP. “We are in the process of carrying out an operation”, he said before adding that “Arrests” had been carried out in this context.
The spokesperson for the Catalan regional police, on the other hand, refused to disclose the identities of those arrested. But, according to several media – including Radio Cadena Ser, generally very well informed about the club’s affairs – Josep Maria Bartomeu is one of them. La Cadena Ser also ensures that the director general in place, Oscar Grau, and the legal director, Román Gomez Ponti, were also arrested.
A case that erupted in early 2020
The magistrate who ordered these searches is investigating the “BarçaGate” scandal. This case arose a year ago after an investigation by Cadena Ser on an alleged campaign of slander against figures of Barça (such as star Lionel Messi or defender Gerard Piqué) on social networks, orchestrated by the company I3 Ventures, working for the club. This campaign aimed to improve the image of Josep Maria Bartomeu, the people targeted being all critical of the president, as reported by “L’Equipe”.
In early 2020, Cadena Ser radio showed that the club had paid a million euros to this company, with which Barça has since cut ties. That is an amount six times higher than market prices, according to the press. The club then categorically denied any defamation campaign.
“Have they been given the task of monitoring social networks? The answer is yes. Have they been tasked with discrediting people or institutions on social networks? The answer is no. And we will prosecute all those who accuse us of this ”, was then defended Josep Maria Bartomeu.
In Barça, eagerly awaited elections
Criticized by a large fringe of supporters, players and members of the club, the president of Barça ended up resigning on October 27.
The arrests of 1er March comes six days before the elections for the presidency of the club, where the socios (supporters-shareholders) will be called upon to choose between Joan Laporta, Toni Freixa and Victor Font to succeed him. Crucial elections for the club, which hopes to get out of financial and administrative difficulties. According to the daily “La Vanguardia”, Barça accumulated at the end of 2020 nearly 900 million euros in debt.