Barcelona have been charged with suspected bribery payments worth in excess of $7.3 million to companies linked with ex-vice president of refereeing Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, per EFE reports. Former club presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell are accused of the same charges as well as Negreira and his son Javier Enriquez Romero.
Barca have previously been charged with alleged sporting and business corruption as well as false administration and falsified commercial documents. Also according to EFE, police searched the refereeing head office at the Spanish Soccer Federation (RFEF) in Madrid on Thursday for documents linked with the case.
Prosecutors lodged a complaint against Barca, the former presidents and the Negreiras in Spanish court back in March which was accepted and opened the investigation. The bribery charges could now see the process speed up since the payments were first revealed back in February.
Barca paid Negreira's companies more than $7.3 million over a seven-year period from 2001-2018 when he was vice president having been a former referee himself. Current Barca supremo Joan Laporta has claimed that the payments were for "technical reports regarding referees" and has denied claims that the Catalan club "bought referees or influence."
Prosecutors accuse Rosell and Bartomeu of agreeing with Negreira to "carry out actions aimed at favoring Barca in the decision-making of the referees in the matches played by the club and thus in the results of the competitions." Bribery in Spain only requires proof that a public official or figure of authority has requested money or compensation in return for an influenced decisions with their remit.
"You know my opinion," said Barca head coach Xavi in press conference on Thursday. "I have never had the feeling that the club have benefitted from refereeing. Never. I do not have time to reflect on much more than that, I am focused on sporting issues. Next week there will be another Negreira story, in 15 days another and then more a month."
Rosell led Barca from 2010-14 before Bartomeu's arrival while Laporta arrived in 2021 to replace Bartomeu who resigned in 2020.