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Barcelona President Laporta intransigent over bribery charges

By Real11 - Oct 19 2023 187 Views
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Barcelona President Laporta Remains Defiant Amid Bribery Charges

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has expressed his calmness and maintained his innocence after being personally charged with suspected bribery in relation to the ongoing refereeing scandal that has rocked the Catalan club. Laporta, 61, has been implicated in a probe investigating payments totaling over €7 million ($7.3m) made to companies linked to former vice president of the refereeing committee, José María Enríquez Negreira, between 2001 and 2018.

In an interview with Catalunya Radio, Laporta stated, "Knowing this judge's history, we were warned by our defence team that this could happen, but as there is no crime of bribery, it cannot prosper. I am a lawyer, and I am calm about that. They can't prove anything because it's not true."

Laporta expressed confidence in the case, highlighting the contradiction between the judge's criteria and the prosecution's stance. He emphasised that the prosecution had categorically stated that the charges were related to sporting corruption and false administration, not bribery. Laporta firmly believes that Barcelona will ultimately be absolved of any wrongdoing.

The charges against Laporta were initially filed in March, with bribery being added as an additional charge by investigating judge Joaquín Aguirre López in September. Originally, the defendants named in the complaint were Barcelona as a club, former presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, former executives Oscar Grau and Albert Soler, as well as Negreira and his son. However, López recently asserted that Laporta and his board of directors from the relevant period should also face the same charges, arguing that the latter years of Laporta's first term as president should not be time-barred.

Laporta believes that the case against him is motivated by a bias against Barcelona, stemming from societal favoritism toward their arch-rivals, Real Madrid. He claimed, "There is socially-ingrained Madrid favoritism in circles of power that is very strong. It exists and is protected in certain media outlets, certain political circles, and in sections of sport. We have to accept it." Laporta further asserted that the current situation is a repeat of what he faced during his previous tenure as president, suggesting that Barcelona's success during that period had caused damage to their rivals.

The payments made by Barcelona to Negreira's companies spanned a 17-year period when he served as vice president of the refereeing committee. Negreira had previously been a referee in the Spanish top flight. Laporta maintains that the payments were for "technical reports about referees" and vehemently denies any allegations of buying referees or attempting to influence their decisions.

Prosecutors, on the other hand, have accused Rosell and Bartomeu of having an agreement with Negreira to manipulate referee decisions in favour of Barcelona and influence the club's match results. Rosell served as Barcelona president from 2010 to 2014, with Bartomeu taking over until his resignation in 2020. Laporta was subsequently elected as Bartomeu's successor in 2021.

Barcelona was originally charged in March with alleged corruption in sport, corruption in business, false administration, and the falsification of commercial documents. The bribery charges were added in September after the judge determined that Negreira's role as vice president of the refereeing committee equated to that of a civil servant.

Despite the mounting legal challenges, Laporta remains defiant and resolute in his belief that Barcelona will emerge from this investigation with their reputation untarnished. The club and its president are determined to prove their innocence and overcome what they perceive as bias and attempts to besmirch their name.

 

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