Barcelona sued for allegedly buying refereeing favours, spent KSh1 billion
- The club allegedly paid over $7.8 million (about KSh 1billion) between 2001 and 2018 to firms owned by Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira.
- Enriquez was vice-president of the refereeing committee of the Spanish football association in 1993-2018.
Spanish prosecutors have filed a complaint against Barcelona and two of the LaLiga club's ex-presidents over alleged payments to a company owned by a senior refereeing official to influence match results, the public prosecutor's office said on Friday.
A judge has yet to decide whether to take up the case.
The club allegedly paid over $7.8 million (about KSh 1billion) between 2001 and 2018 to firms owned by Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira, who was vice-president of the refereeing committee of the Spanish football association in 1993-2018.
Prosecutors claim that under a secret agreement and "in exchange for money", Negreira favoured Barcelona "in the decisions taken by referees in the games played by the club, as well as in the results of the competitions".
A senior Barcelona official told Reuters the club expected the complaint but said it was "nothing more than an absolutely preliminary investigative hypothesis" from the prosecutors and that "now is when the judicial investigation properly begins."
The official added that "the club will fully cooperate with the investigation in all means necessary" and "reiterates that they have never bought any referee nor have tried to influence any official's decisions."
Barca denied wrongdoing in a statement last month, saying they had simply paid an external consultant that supplied them with "technical reports related to professional refereeing", calling it "a common practice among professional football clubs".
The complaint focuses on the 2.9 million euros (KSh400million) paid between 2014 and 2018 and alleges that Barcelona - with the help of former presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu - reached a "confidential verbal agreement" with Negreira.
It accuses the club, Rosell, Bartomeu, Negreira and two other former Barcelona officials of corruption in sports, unfair administration and falsehood in mercantile documents.
The investigation was triggered by a tax inspection. Negreira told the Spanish tax agency that Barcelona's goal with the payments was to have "neutral" referees in their games, according to El Pais newspaper.
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