MADRID (AP) – Spanish police detained several people after raiding the Barcelona stadium on Monday in a search and seizure operation.
The operation was related to last year’s “Barçagate”, in which the club’s leaders were accused of launching a smear campaign against current and former players critical of the club and then president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Police said arrests were made, but did not say who or how many people were detained.
The club said authorities were at the team’s headquarters, but gave no further details.
Spanish media said Bartomeu and other former club leaders were among those arrested.
A text message sent to Bartomeu was not immediately returned.
The arrests occur less than a week before the club’s presidential elections are held.
One of the three presidential candidates, Joan Laporta, told Lleida Radio that what happened on Monday “was a consequence of the mismanagement of the previous administration.” He said the news of Bartomeu’s arrest was “shocking” and “not good” for the club, but pointed out that the former president deserved the “presumption of innocence.”
Court officials said a judge ordered the search and seizure operation, but the arrests had been made at the discretion of the police officers involved. Authorities said the operation was being carried out by the police’s financial crimes department.
Barcelona had denied allegations that it hired, and overpaid, a company to make negative comments about its own players and opponents on social media in order to improve the image of the club’s top officials.
The company was accused of using fake social media accounts to discredit opposition figures when they expressed opinions that went against the club. Some of the figures reportedly included players like Lionel Messi and Gerard Piqué, as well as former coach Pep Guardiola.
Later, the club published an independent audit report showing that there were no wrongdoing.
Bartomeu and his board of directors resigned last year amid the fallout from the controversy surrounding Messi. The club has been embroiled in political turmoil and debt caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The club has been run by an interim board since Bartomeu left in October while facing a no-confidence motion backed by thousands of club members furious at the team’s poor performance and the club’s financial situation.
The club’s problems began to surface after the team’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season, which was the first without a title for the Spanish club since 2007. -08.
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