Barcelona’s former board showed ‘very serious criminal behaviour’, a lawyer hired by the club said on Tuesday when presenting its ‘medico-legal report’ on Barca’s financial management under Josep Maria Bartomeu .
When Bartomeu’s successor Joan Laporta took over, he was forced to allow iconic star Lionel Messi to leave on a free transfer, largely because the club’s finances meant they could no longer afford to pay. His salary.
Laporta said the club had seen “payments without reason, payments with a false reason or disproportionate payments”.
Laporta added that “it cannot be ruled out that there was unfair reward for those responsible for these payments.”
The report’s findings prompted the club to file a complaint last week with the Barcelona public prosecutor’s office, which on Friday opened an investigation into “economic crimes”, a source told AFP.
Barcelona’s report, carried out by financial investigation company Kroll, was launched after the club’s chief executive, Ferran Reverter, announced the results of an internal audit in October.
Reverter said the club was “technically bankrupt” when Laporta took over as chairman in March 2021, with the audit showing the club’s total debts of 1.35 billion euros ($1.52 billion).
The presentation of the report was made at offices outside Camp Nou on Tuesday morning by Laporta, Eduard Romeu, Barcelona’s finance vice-president, and Jaume Campaner, a corporate lawyer hired to work on the investigation.
Campaner said: “This is not to point fingers or describe the previous board’s management as better or worse, that’s not it.
“It’s about transferring information to authorities who are investigating crimes and cracking down on this kind of behavior, which is very serious criminal behavior.”
Campaner continues: “If I had to define everything in one word, it would be: disloyalty. Because it is the money of the members of FC Barcelona. This money cannot be abused or given away as if it were yours.”
Campaner listed a number of alleged irregularities found in the report, including lawyers being paid seven million euros for an “alleged player signing”, commissions paid to agents which were inflated by 5-33% and a €15m payment made to a club to get a first refusal on young players, which Campaner said had “no basis in reality”.
“The legal word for that is false accounting,” Campaner concluded.
Bartomeu has defended his tenure as chairman, rejecting the figures presented by the current board while blaming the losses on the crisis caused by the pandemic.
“Our management was serious and responsible,” Bartomeu said in an interview with Barcelona newspaper Mundo Deportivo in October.
Laporta said on Tuesday he was still ‘open to dialogue’ with Bartomeu. He said the club’s wage bill has been reduced by €159m under the current board.
Barcelona failed to secure an exit for Ousmane Dembele during the January transfer window, which closed on Monday night, with Dembele now able to leave for free when his contract expires in the summer.
Ferran Torres joined earlier in the month from Manchester City for €55m while Laporta said the signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on a free transfer from Arsenal is expected to be completed this week.
Bartomeu appeared in court in March and was freed pending corruption charges, after police raided five locations around Barcelona, including Camp Nou offices.
Over 200,000 Barcelona members had signed a petition for Bartomeu to be removed as president, but Bartomeu resigned in October 2020, before a vote of no confidence could take place.
He has publicly fallen out with Lionel Messi, who left last summer and joined Paris Saint-Germain when the club could not afford to extend his contract.
The team suffered a dramatic decline on the pitch and they are still recovering. Barca sit fifth in La Liga and failed to qualify for this season’s Champions League in the round of 16.
Bartomeu also oversaw many political controversies, including the ‘Barcagate’ scandal, which saw a company allegedly hired to smear opponents on the board on social media, along with the likes of Messi, Gerard Pique and the current coach Xavi Hernandez among those targeted.
Read all the latest news, breaking news and Union Budget 2022 updates here.