Josep Maria Bartomeu, the ex-president of soccer giants Barcelona, has been detained at the club amid a police investigation into misconduct within the institution’s hierarchy, according to Spanish media.
Sources have reported other club arrests too—CEO Oscar Grau, lawyer Roman Gomez Ponti and former advisor Jaume Masferrer were said to have been taken in, less than a week before the new presidential elections.
Barcelona has acknowledged the authorities’ intervention, which took place at the club’s offices. Audit company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is behind the inspection and is continuing to examine whether Barcelona tried to control its public opinion through a third party.
This comes after an initial probe last February. The latest investigations are into allegations that social media company I3 Ventures received money from the club to manipulate attitudes towards people at Camp Nou. The club has since issued a response, stating their willingness to work alongside the authorities to establish the “clear facts” and to “presume innocence” for those affected.
Contractual information is still being collected and assessed, with any prosecution likely to hinge on whether any corrupt dealings—and the extent of these—have taken place.
Bartomeu, maligned by many in the club’s circles, resigned from duty last October, leaving the club heaped in debt and needing fresh leadership. Since his departure, Carles Tusquets has stood in as interim president.
Barcelona are still damaged by Bartomeu’s presidency and past issues have come home to roost.
Experienced player Gerard Pique has been an open critic of the former president, condemning his leadership and attitude towards players in the past, while six board member left their positions during his chaotic presidency due to concerns over the club’s management.