Madrid: Spanish police have detained several people after raiding Barcelona’s stadium Monday in a search and seizure operation. Among those detained by the Spanish police are former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, said sources. Police however confirmed detentions were made but did not say who or how many people were taken into custody.
The police operation was related to last year’s ‘Barçagate’. In the ‘Barcagate scandal, club officials were accused of launching a smear campaign against current and former players. The campaign was launched against those who were critical of the club and then-president Bartomeu.
The club said authorities were at the team’s headquarters but did not provide any more detail. Spanish media said Bartomeu and other former club officials were among those detained. A text message sent to Bartomeu was not immediately answered.
The detentions come less than a week before presidential elections are to be held at Barcelona. One of the three presidential candidates, Joan Laporta, told ‘Lleida Radio’ that what happened Monday ‘was a consequence of the bad management by the previous administration’. He said the news of Bartomeu’s reported detention was ‘shocking’ and ‘not good’ for the club.
Court officials said a judge ordered the search and seize operation. However, the detentions had been made at the discretion of the police agents involved. Authorities said the operation was being carried out by the Spanish police’s financial crimes department.
Barcelona had denied accusations that it hired – and overpaid – a company to make negative comments about their own players and opponents on social media. The company was accused of using fake social media accounts to discredit opposition figures. This happened when they expressed views that went against the club. Some of the figures supposedly included players such Lionel Messi and Gerard Piqué, as well as former coach Pep Guardiola.
The club later released an independent audit report showing that there was no wrongdoing.
Bartomeu and his board of directors resigned last year amid fallout from the controversy surrounding Messi. The club have been mired in political turmoil and debt prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.