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Barcelona cleared of bribery charges over referee payment allegations

Barcelona cleared of bribery charges over referee payment allegations
© Reuters
A Spanish court dismiss bribery charges against Barcelona, ending an investigation into a refereeing corruption scandal involving club president Joan Laporta.

A Spanish court has dismissed bribery charges against Barcelona, ending an investigation into a refereeing corruption scandal involving club president Joan Laporta.

The charges stemmed from allegations the club had paid a former refereeing chief over £6m between 1994 and 2018.

The investigation focused on alleged payments to DASNIL 95, a company owned by former match official Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira during Josep Bartomeu's presidency.

Negreira, who later became a vice president of the Referees' Technical Committee, allegedly received substantial sums annually from Barcelona.

Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira testifies in alleged FC Barcelona bribery case on May 23, 2024© Reuters

Barcelona bribery charges dismissed in referee corruption investigation

However, the court has now ruled that Negreira's non-public official status, in addition to the lack of evidence, prevented bribery charges against the Catalans.

Undoubtedly, the ruling brings major relief to Barca, who would otherwise have faced significant UEFA sanctions, including being excluded from the Champions League, which would have had a huge impact on the side's financial situation.

Throughout the investigation, Blaugrana maintained that the payments to Negreira were for technical and scouting reports, backed by documentation presented by the club president, Laporta.

Following the dismissal decision, Barcelona issued a statement expressing their contentment with the outcome.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta during the press conference on February 1, 2022© Reuters

Barca issue statement following court decision

"FCB is satisfied with today's ruling by the Barcelona High Court insofar as it confirms the approach defended by the club and rules out the hypothesis of the alleged crime of bribery.

"We maintain our conviction that through Justice the facts that are the subject of the complaint can be definitively clarified and the absolute innocence of the club can be proven."

Despite the ruling, though, Barca are not completely in the clear just yet as they are still under investigation for matters relating to sporting corruption and 'dishonest administration.'

Barcelona were knocked out of the Champions League in the quarter-final by Paris Saint-Germain and are set to finish the 2023-24 La Liga season in second place behind arch-rivals Real Madrid.

The Catalans will hope to end the season on a high note when they face Sevilla at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium in their final league match on Sunday night.

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Barcelona president Joan Laporta pictured on August 5, 2022
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