Police in Spain have searched the headquarters of the country’s football referee committee as part of a probe into payments made by Barcelona football club to a firm owned by a former official of the body.
Prosecutors suspect the club paid millions of dollars to the company of Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, the former vice president of Spanish football’s refereeing committee, between 2001 and 2018, to try to influence referee decisions.
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The Barcelona court investigating the case on Thursday ordered the search of the headquarters “as part of the investigation into the suspect payments made by the Catalan club” to Negreira, the regional court oversight body said in a statement.
The Guardia Civil police force, which was searching the committee’s base located in the headquarters of Spain’s football federation in Las Rozas on the outskirts of Madrid, did not expect to make any arrests as part of the operation, a spokesman said.
In March, Spanish prosecutors charged Barcelona as well as two of the club’s former presidents, Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell, and Negreira and his son, Javier Enriquez Negreira, with corruption over the affair.
The club was accused of corruption in sports, fraudulent management and the falsification of mercantile documentation.
Prosecutors said between 2001 and 2018, Barcelona paid $7.7m to Negreira, a former referee who was a part of the federation’s refereeing committee from 1994 to 2018.
The investigation began after Spain’s tax authorities identified irregularities in tax payments made between 2016 and 2018 by the company Dasnil 95, which is owned by Negreira.
Dasnil 95 reportedly received payments from Barcelona between those years.
Barcelona have denied any wrongdoing or conflict of interest, saying it paid for technical reports on referees but never tried to influence their decisions in games.
Barcelona’s archrivals Real Madrid had joined the prosecution in the lawsuit as a damaged party.