Football

Barcelona: Josep Bartomeu innocent until proven guilty

Barcelona confirmed on Monday police raided the club’s offices as part of an investigation into the hiring of a company to improve the image of former president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Several arrests were made, a Catalan regional police spokesman told AFP, just six days ahead of the club’s new presidential elections on Sunday. Spain’s Cadena Ser radio said one of those arrested was Bartomeu, who resigned in October, along with CEO Oscar Grau and the club’s head of legal services Roma Gomez Ponti.

But Barcelona refused to comment on arrests while the police would not confirm names, saying only that “arrests are taking place” and adding that the operation was being run by officers from the financial crimes unit. “We are in the process of carrying out an operation right now with agents of the financial crimes unit,” the police spokesman told AFP.

Barcelona said the operation is linked to last year’s investigation into the ‘BarcaGate’ scandal, in which the club was accused of covering up payments to a company called I3 Ventures, hired to boost the image of then-president Bartomeu on social media.

Part of the campaign included criticising current and former players, like Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola and Xavi Hernandez. Messi described the controversy as “strange” in an interview with Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo.

A club statement on Monday read: “Regarding the entry and search by the Catalan Police force this morning at the Camp Nou offices by order of the Instructing Court number 13 in Barcelona, which is in charge of the case relating to the contacting of monitoring services on social networks, FC Barcelona have offered up their full collaboration to the legal and police authorities to help make clear facts which are subject to investigation. “The information and documentation requested by the judicial police force relate strictly to the facts relative to this case.”

“FC Barcelona express its utmost respect for the judicial process in place and for the principle of presumed innocence for the people affected within the remit of this investigation,” it concluded.

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