Barcelona president under investigation in refereeing case

MADRID: Barcelona president Joan Laporta is under formal investigation for suspected bribery in a probe spanning two decades of activities at Spain's refereeing committee, according to a court document seen by Reuters today.

In March, prosecutors filed a complaint over alleged payments of more than €7.3 million (RM36.5 million) over 17 years to firms owned by Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, who was vice-president of the Spanish football federation's refereeing committee from 1993 to 2018.

Laporta, who started a second term as Barca's president in 2021, was also at the helm from 2003 to 2010.

Last month, investigating judge Joaquin Aguirre Lopez said Barcelona may have benefited from graft and put the club under investigation for suspected "active bribery."

Now Aguirre also named as suspects Laporta and "all those who were members of the board of directors of FC Barcelona during his mandate or who had an effective responsibility in decision-making to allegedly make the illicit payments" to Negreira and his son.

LaLiga champions Barcelona have denied any wrongdoing, saying in a statement in February that the club had paid an external consultant who supplied it with "technical reports related to professional refereeing", which it said was a common practice among professional football clubs.

Today, Barca told Reuters its legal department was handling the case.

In Spain, being placed under investigation does not necessarily lead to indictment and no formal charges can be brought until the first phase of the investigation is completed. --Reuters

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