Former president of FC Barcelona Josep Maria Bartomeu has been arrested following a raid at the club’s offices by the Catalan Police, reports say. Former Barcelona CEO Oscar Grau and legal services head, Roman Gomez Ponti, have also been arrested over the ‘Barcagate scandal’.
FC Barcelona under Bartomeu was accused of paying a third-party company to smear the reputation of past and current players as well as other presidential candidates. The club had eventually denied the allegations before terminating its contract with I3 Ventures, the firm which handled the club’s social media accounts.
Local authorities had continued investigations into the matter even though an external audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers had cleared FC Barcelona of any wrongdoing. Initially, it was believed that only former player Xavi Hernandez and coach Pep Guardiola was attacked. But later, it was revealed that Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique were attacked as well.
FC Barcelona said in a statement, “Regarding the entry and search by the Catalan Police force this morning at the Camp Nou offices by order of the Instructing Court number 13 in Barcelona, which is in charge of the case relating to the contacting of monitoring services on social networks, FC Barcelona have offered up their full collaboration to the legal and police authorities to help make clear facts which are subject to investigation.”
“FC Barcelona express its utmost respect for the judicial process in place and for the principle of presumed innocence for the people affected within the remit of this investigation,” it added.
While Bartomeu denied any personal wrongdoing, he was forced to resign after 20,000 club members signed a petition calling for his ouster in order to avoid a vote of no-confidence. The election for the position of president is due to occur on Sunday.