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Monday, March 1, 2021

March 01, 2021
Former FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu was among four people arrested after police conducted a raid at the La Liga soccer team's offices Monday in Barcelona. Photo by Alejandro Garcia/EPA-EFE

(UPI) - Former FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu was among four people arrested after police raided the La Liga club's offices Monday in Barcelona.

Sources told ESPN, Spain's El Pais newspaper and Spain's SER Catalunya radio station that Bartomeu, his adviser Jaume Masferrer, Barcelona CEO Oscar Grau and head of legal services Roman Gomez Ponti were among those detained Monday by Mossos d'Esquadra, the police force of Catalonia.

Officers raided the Camp Nou stadium offices to search for evidence connected to Barcelona's "Barcagate" social media scandal.

"FC Barcelona have offered up their full collaboration to the legal and police authorities to help make clear facts which are subject to investigation," Barcelona said in a news release.

"The information and documentation requested by the judicial police force relate strictly to the facts relative to this case. FC Barcelona express its great respect for the judicial process in place and for the principle of presumed innocence for the people affected within the remit of this investigation."

Mossos d'Esquadra tweeted Monday morning that its economic crimes unit was in the process of the searches at Camp Nou.

The "Barcagate" scandal relates to allegations that Barcelona paid a third-party company -- I3 Ventures -- to spread negative information about former players, current players and presidential candidates on social media platforms.

Star striker Lionel Messi and defender Gerard Pique were among those targeted by the alleged smear campaign.

Barcelona has denied the allegations.

The club commissioned an external audit, conducted in July by the firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, to investigate the matter. Barcelona stated that its contracts related to monitoring and analyzing social networks on behalf of the club "did not include any defamatory campaigns directed at third parties."

The club also said that "no corrupt behaviour took place" and has denied other allegations.

Police continued the investigation despite the club's audit findings.

Bartomeu resigned in October amid criticism of his management of the club. Barcelona's 140,000 club members-owners will vote for a new president Sunday.


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