Police raided the offices of FC Barcelona on Monday, carrying out several arrests just six days ahead of the club’s presidential elections, a Catalan regional police spokesman told AFP.
Spain’s Cadena Ser radio said one of those arrested was former club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who resigned in October, along with CEO Oscar Grau and the club’s head of legal services.
But the police refused to confirm names, saying only “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.
According to reports in the Spanish media, the operation is linked to last year’s investigation into the ‘BarcaGate’ scandal, in which the club denied hiring a company to criticise current and former players on social media to improve the image of the then-president Bartomeu.
Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola and Xavi Hernandez were among those allegedly targeted by the campaign. Messi described the controversy as “strange” in an interview with Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo.
Cadena Ser also claimed Barca had paid the company, I3 Ventures, an inflated fee and put payments through in smaller, separate amounts to avoid the club’s financial controls.
Emili Rousaud, who resigned as Barcelona vice president in March last year, said in an interview with RAC1: “If the auditors tell us the cost of these services is 100,000 euros and we have paid one million, it means someone has had their hand in the till.” The club took legal action against him.
Rousaud was among six Barca executives to leave their posts, with a joint letter citing the controversy as a key issue needing to be resolved.