According to the lawsuit, between 2001 and 2018, Barcelona transferred almost 7.3 million euros to a company account belonging to then-vice president of the Referees Committee, José Marío Enríquez. The Catalan team is awaiting trial on suspicion of corruption, former presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell were also accused. Among the accused is Enríquez, who, like the representatives of Barcelona, admitted the payments, but denied that they were bribes.
“It was a technical consultation that is quite common in big clubs. It is definitely not something illegal. Everything was done transparently,” emphasized Laporta, according to which the audit found 629 technical reports concerning referees and 43 CDs. However, it is not a complete list, according to him, some documents from 2001 to 2018 have not survived.
Laporta said that the investigation within the club did not reveal any wrongdoing by any of the then presidents of FC Barcelona or any corrupt or other illegal actions. He repeated again that the money was in no way used to influence the judges, but only for consultations, and that at the normal “market price”. He also defended Enríqueze, who, according to him, was not in a position to have a direct influence on the league referees. In addition, the news for Barcelona was mainly written by his son.
“I am convinced that Barcelona did not commit any corruption. I believe that it will be proven as soon as possible. There must be evidence to convict of a crime. We live in a world where laws apply, but also the presumption of innocence,” said Laporta.
The 60-year-old official takes the whole case as an attack on the club, which is currently leading the Spanish league ahead of eternal rivals Real Madrid. “It is one of the biggest attacks on our club, which aims to discredit Barcelona. Just let someone provide proof that these payments have ever led to any advantage in a FC Barcelona match,” urged Laporta, saying that in his opinion, on the contrary, referees are historically mainly on Real’s side.
In recent days, Barcelona filed two dozen lawsuits in connection with the affair, mainly against journalists who reported on the case. The club also called for the resignation of the president of the Spanish football league, Javier Tebas. Laporta assured that the Catalans will continue to defend themselves.
However, Barcelona is not in danger of being punished by the management of Spanish football. Even if proven guilty, cases older than three years are time-barred under the guidelines. UEFA has also launched a formal investigation.
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