Barcelona: Local police have arrested former Barcelona FC president Josep Maria Bartomeu after a Monday raid of the club’s offices in Camp Nou in association with the infamous Barcagate scandal, according to reports.
Journalists in Spain surrounded the building during the police investigation as several members of the football club were taken in for investigation.
Bartomeu, as well as his adviser Jaume Masferrer, club CEO Oscar Grau and head of legal services, Roman Gomez Ponti, were all arrested in association with charges related to an alleged social media smear campaign that deliberately discredited players such as Lionel Messi and Xavi.
Claims emerged last year that the club, under Bartomeu’s guidance, paid for a third-party social media company to publicly soil the reputation of former and current players, staff and even potential presidential replacements for Bartomeu himself.
Despite Barca strongly denying the allegations lobbed against them — as well as an external audit that cleared the club of the accusations — the police and a financial crimes unit are reportedly continuing their investigation.
This isn’t the first time that police raid the Barca offices. Last year, they also searched for evidence in relation to the allegations in June.
Bartomeu resigned in October of 2020, calling it a “thought-out, serene, informed decision”. It was not a direct result of the Barcagate fall-out. The interim president is currently Carlos Tusquets.
Barcelona FC have released a statement since the arrests, which has circulated online via Spanish media outlets.
In it, they claim "full collaboration with the judicial and police authority in order to clarify the facts object of this investigation," as well as "maximum respect for the judicial procedure and the principle of presumption of innocence of the persons affected."