Police raided Monday 1er March the headquarters FC Barcelona and arrested ex-president Josep Maria Bartomeu as well as three former or current leaders of the club in connection with the investigation into the “Barçagate”, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The case erupted a year ago after an investigation by Spanish radio Cadena Ser into an alleged campaign of slander against Barça figures (such as star Lionel Messi or defender Gerard Pique) on social networks, orchestrated by a company working for the club.
A smear campaign
The press then stressed that the aim of this campaign was to improve the image of Josep Maria Bartomeu, the people targeted being all critical of the president who resigned on October 27.
The radio had shown that the club had paid one million euros in six separate invoices to this company, I3 Ventures, with whom Barca have since cut ties. That is an amount six times higher than market prices, according to the press. The club had categorically denied any smear campaign.
“Have they been given the task of monitoring social networks? The answer is yes. Have they been tasked with discrediting people or institutions on social networks? The answer is no. And we will prosecute all those who accuse us of this ”, then defended Bartomeu.
Resignation of the entire management committee
Criticized by a large fringe of supporters, players and members of the club, Josep Maria Bartomeu ended up resigning at the end of October 2020, after a long crisis, with his entire management committee.
Remained six and a half years at the head of Barça, he had come close to losing the living legend Lionel Messi. At the end of August, the latter had announced his wish to terminate his contract “Unilaterally”, disappointed by the results of his team and even more by the decisions of its leaders who in particular chose to separate from his great friend Luis Suarez.
These searches and arrests come six days before the elections for the presidency of the club scheduled for Sunday, where the socios (supporters-shareholders) will be called upon to choose between Joan Laporta, Toni Freixa and Victor Font to succeed Bartomeu.