FC Barcelona

Josep Maria Bartomeu arrested in police investigation of 'Barcagate'

Tom Gott
Mar 1, 2021, 12:20 PM GMT
Josep Maria Bartomeu has been arrested by Catalan police
Josep Maria Bartomeu has been arrested by Catalan police | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
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Former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has been arrested as part of a police investigation into the 'Barcagate' scandal of early 2020.

Reports emerged suggesting Bartomeu was behind a decision to hire a company called I3Ventures to create a number of fake profiles on social media to spread positive messages in defence of the Barcelona board and slander those who had spoken out against them, including players like Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi.

While that's obviously ethically wrong, things stepped up to a whole new level when Bartomeu was accused of corruption and money laundering by splitting the contract with I3Ventures up to try and ensure it went undetected in the club's accounts.

I3Ventures were reportedly paid around €1m per season, but that deal was split up into several contracts worth around €200,000 - small enough to avoid detection.

Police have been looking into those accusations ever since, and according to Cadena SER, who were the first to report on the 'Barcagate' scandal, the decision has been made to arrest Bartomeu for his role in the deal.

Bartomeu rejected claims of a smear campaign
Bartomeu rejected claims of a smear campaign | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Alongside Bartomeu, police have also detained former general manager Oscar Grau and the man in charge of Barcelona's legal dealings, Roman Gomez Ponti.

Catalan police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, entered Barcelona's offices on Monday morning to conduct a search, focusing on the Finance, Legal and Compliance offices specifically. Further arrests have not been ruled out.

The 'Barcagate' scandal led to a number of resignations at the club from staff members who had been kept in the dark about the whole thing, and while an external audit cleared Barcelona of any wrongdoing, suspicions did not disappear.

It was alleged that Messi was one of those targeted
It was alleged that Messi was one of those targeted | Fran Santiago/Getty Images

Concerns over Bartomeu's involvement in the situation played a part in the vote of no confidence tabled against him in October 2020, at which point he resigned before he was forced out of office.

It was one of many allegations against Bartomeu and his leadership of the club, with many fans accusing the president of financial mismanagement which has left Barcelona facing immense debts of close to €1bn.

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