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Barcelona CEO and former president Josep Maria Bartomeu arrested amid Camp Nou raid

FOOTBALL By Mirror | March 1st 2021
Barcelona's Spanish defender Gerard Pique (R) poses beside his jersey and Barcelona FC president Josep Maria Bartomeu during the official announcement of his contract renewal at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on January 29, 2018. [AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE]

Former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has been arrested following a raid on the club’s offices on Monday.

Barca CEO Oscar Grau and Roman Gómez Ponti, the club’s head of legal, were also arrested.

It comes amid the continued investigation into ‘BarcaGate’, in which club officials were accused of launching a smear campaign against current and former players who were critical of the club and then-president Bartomeu.

He and his board of directors resigned last year in controversy.

Police entered Barcelona's stadium in a search and seize operation, the club confirmed.

Police have confirmed that arrests have been made and while they aren't declaring who, multiple sources in Spain have declared Bartomeu and Grau are among those, as well as Gomez Ponti and Jaume Masferrer, Bartomeu's former right-hand man.

According to Cadena SER radio, they were arrested on suspicion of “unfair administration, corruption between individuals and money laundering."

The 'BarcaGate; scandal, which has been investigated for almost a year, has long been denied by Bartomeu.

Barcelona's president Josep Maria Bartomeu (L) and CEO of Japanese company Rakuten Hiroshi Mikitani display the FC Barcelona's new jersey after signing an agreement between FC Barcelona and Rakuten Inc. at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on November 16, 2016. [AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE]

It was claimed that he and his regime had hired I3 Ventures to protect his reputation, while smearing the names of the likes of Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Pep Guardiola and other club legends, as well as outspoken critics of Bartomeu.

In February 2020 they confirmed a partnership with I3 Ventures, but denied claims that the firm ran a number of unofficial Facebook and Twitter accounts on the club's behalf.

It subsequently led to six members of Bartomeu's board quitting last April, amid civil war at the Catalan club.

One of those, former vice president Emili Rousaud, accused a high-ranking executive of "having their hand in the till".

A public letter duly called for an investigation following leaks in the Spanish media that the service was paid for in five instalments of €200k, to avoid it being detected by internal financial controls.

Barcelona, then under Bartomeu's command, immediately threatened legal action, but police have been investigating ever since.

Bartomeu resigned in October, departing after six years at the helm and off the back of a particularly tumultuous summer in which club captain Messi publicly made clear his desire to leave was because of his hierarchy.

The police operation comes less than a week before presidential elections are to be held, with three candidates – Victor Font, Joan Laporta and Toni Freia – on the final ballot for the crucial vote.

Former president Laporta, who spent seven years at the helm between 2003-2010, winning two European Cups and making a previously untested Guardiola head coach, is favourite to take the helm.

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