UEFA opens investigation into FC Barcelona’s alleged improper payments to former referee official
By Matias Grez, Ben Morse and Patrick Sung, CNN
UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, has opened an investigation into alleged improper payments made by FC Barcelona to José María Enríquez Negreira, a former leading refereeing official in Spain.
Earlier this month, the Catalan club was charged by the Barcelona provincial prosecutor’s office with “continued corruption between individuals in the sports field,” in addition to other charges in relation to an alleged payment scandal which has rocked Spanish soccer.
“UEFA Ethics and Disciplinary Inspectors have today been appointed to conduct an investigation regarding a potential violation of UEFA’s legal framework by FC Barcelona in connection with the so-called ‘Caso Negreira,'” UEFA said in a statement.
CNN has reached out to FC Barcelona for comment on the opening of the UEFA investigation.
When contacted by CNN regarding possible punishments if the club is found guilty, UEFA referred CNN back to its original statement. The governing body’s statutes dictate punishments ranging from warnings and fines to “exclusion from future competitions” for any possible violations of UEFA’s legal framework.
Former FCB presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, former club CEO Oscar Grau and former club director of professional sports Albert Soler have also been charged along with Negreira.
In a written complaint from the Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office sent to CNN on March 10, Barça and the other accused have also been charged with “the crime of continued false administration and the crime of continued falsification of commercial documents.”
The charges were presented to the No. 1 magistrate’s court in Barcelona.
An FCB source told CNN at the time that the club did not have an official statement, though its first reaction was that the charges were to be expected after recent events, but that the report was an “absolutely preliminary investigative hypothesis” and that the club would assist the investigation in any way possible.
The source also strongly denied that the club had at any time bribed a referee or tried to influence refereeing decisions.
Spanish lawyer Jose Maria Fuster Fabra confirmed to CNN at the time that he’s representing Bartomeu in the case. “We are preparing the defense and we don’t think this case will go to trial,” he said, declining to make further statements.
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