The internal investigation that Barcelona ordered into controversial payments made to receive arbitration reports found no evidence of corruption perpetrated by the club, its president Joan Laporta said on Monday.
Laporta reiterated that the payments the club made over several years to a company owned by the former vice president of Spain’s referees committee were for the purpose of receiving technical reports and not to influence referees. He affirmed that “no sports corruption” was committed and that Barcelona is the victim of a campaign that seeks to tarnish its reputation.
“It is the most ferocious attack that the entity is suffering in its history,” Laporta said at a press conference. “I ask Barcelona fans to stay united in defending the shield, the foundational essence and the member-ownership model. I ask Barcelona fans to be by the club’s side”.
“As a great club we have detractors and they try to destroy our prestige,” he added. Out of envy… or for other things. They won’t get anything. No smear campaign will prevent Barça from continuing to be a reference in world sport and from continuing to be admired by millions of Catalans and other millions of people around the world”.
It was the first time that Laporta appeared before the media to provide explanations since it emerged that the club paid 7.3 million euros (8 million dollars) between 2001 and 2018 to the company of José María Enríquez Negreira, the then vice president. of the referee committee. The Prosecutor’s Office accused the club of alleged sports corruption, fraudulent management and falsification of commercial documents.
Barcelona launched its own investigation to examine the management of the three different boards that disbursed the payments during all those years, including Laporta’s first spell as club president. The investigation was conducted by an independent firm.
According to the club, the investigation “has not identified conduct with criminal relevance linked to the crime of sports corruption, there is no indication of affectation to the ‘fair play’ of the competition, nor are criteria given to study criminal modalities linked to bribery”.
Regarding the services provided by the Negreira company, he added that “these are sports advisory services that are common in the professional sports sector.”
The Spanish League, Real Madrid and other clubs have particularly appeared in the legal process against Barcelona. Laporta lashed out at Javier Tebas, the league president, for accusing the Catalan club and also lashed out at his staunch rival from the Spanish capital.
“Everyone knows that Real Madrid is a club historically and currently favored by refereeing errors,” said Laporta. “It has been considered the club of the regime because of its proximity to political, economic and sports power.”