FC Barcelona President Joan Laporta is officially under investigation over allegations of improper payments, marking a significant development in a scandal that has cast a shadow over the club and Spanish soccer. Court documents reveal that the investigation concerns payments made by FC Barcelona to José María Enríquez Negreira, a former high-ranking refereeing official in Spain.
Judge Joaquín Aguirre López, presiding over the 1st Investigation Court of Barcelona, named Negreira, his son Javier, FC Barcelona, and several former club executives as suspects of “active bribery” last month. Laporta’s recent implication is a noteworthy escalation in the case.
While CNN has sought comments from FC Barcelona and Laporta, only a brief acknowledgment has been given through Spanish media outlet Mundo Deportivo, indicating the club’s lawyers are formulating a response.
The backdrop to this case is an official complaint, known as the Caso Negreira or “the Negreira case,” suggesting corruption within sports circles. Prosecutors argue that certain club officials knew of payments surpassing €7 million, channeled to companies established by Negreira, who was a CTA vice president from 1993 to 2018. The CTA governs referee selections for Spanish league and national matches. Accusations hint at a covert verbal agreement with Negreira to influence referee decisions favorably towards Barcelona.
In contrast, FC Barcelona has been vocal in denying any illicit actions. Earlier in the year, they announced an independent investigation into the matter, and sources close to the club vehemently denied allegations of influencing refereeing decisions.
Blaugrana head coach Xavi, commenting on the ongoing investigation, stated he’s never felt that refereeing decisions were biased in their favor.
A significant aspect of Wednesday’s court document was determining the statute of limitations on these allegations. Based on Article 131 of Spain’s Penal Code, the judge extended the statute of limitations for the alleged crimes to 10 years. This time frame encompasses Laporta’s first term as FC Barcelona president from 2003 to 2010. Laporta resumed his role as president in 2021.
The document stresses that the alleged payments led to refereeing biases favorable to FC Barcelona, potentially resulting in an unfair advantage over rival teams.