Ex-Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu was arrested on Monday as part of a search and seizure task that is linked with an investigation into club officials according to reports.
Barca’s Camp Nou home and administrative headquarters were entered as numerous people were detained and some taken into custody, including club CEO Oscar Grau, Bartomeu’s advisor Jaume Masferrer and legal services chief Roman Gomez Ponti. In “Barcagate” last year, Catalan club officials allegedly conducted a smear campaign against critical current and former players as well as Bartomeu himself while he was still president.
The La Liga giants have already rejected claims that they hired the company I3 at an over-inflated rate to paint a better image of club officials in the face of their detractors by making negative comments on social media about certain players and critics. Barca allegedly used fake social media accounts to undermine opponents when views were expressed that went against the club with Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, and Pep Guardiola all thought to have been targeted.
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ independent audit was released by the club to illustrate that there had been no wrongdoing at any point and Bartomeu ended Barca’s deal with I3 as Masferrer took responsibility for those relations. Bartomeu and his board of directors resigned last year after Lionel Messi’s failed move away from Catalonia plunged the club into further unwanted controversy and their problems have been exacerbated by the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and long-standing political turmoil.
FC Barcelona in their statement release has offered up their full collaboration to the legal and police authorities to help make clear facts that are subject to investigation. Barca’s next presidential elections are due to be held in less than one week after they were already delayed once with Carles Tusquets continuing to fill the role on an interim basis.