By Victor Kanayo
Barcelona president Joan Laporta has been charged with suspected bribery over referee payments and could be jailed if found guilty alongside others.
According to Spanish news agency EFE, via ESPN, the payments were made to companies linked to the former vice president of the refereeing committee, José María Enríquez Negreira.
The charges relate to Laporta’s first spell in charge at Barcelona between 2003 and 2010 after a judge ruled the latter years of that tenure should not be time-barred.
Laporta, who returned to the presidency for a second time in 2021, was not initially named as a defendant when charges for alleged bribery were filed against Barça in September.
Laporta And Others
Former presidents Josep María Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell, as well as Negreira and his son, Javier Enríquez Romero, were listed among the accused.
In his report published on Wednesday, the judge leading the investigation said, in his opinion, Laporta could not benefit from the statute of limitations because of the seriousness of the accusations.
Negreira allegedly earned over seven million euros ($7.5 million) from Barcelona between 2001 and 2018, through companies supposedly producing refereeing reports for the club.
Barcelona, the 27-time Spanish champions, have been fighting off accusations for months and deny any wrongdoing.
Laporta and the six others charged by prosecutors deny wrongdoing, but if found guilty they could be jailed for a period between three and six years, while Barcelona would almost certainly face suspensions from La Liga and UEFA competitions.
Barca were threatened with expulsion from this season’s Champions League amid UEFA’s own investigation into the Negreira case, but they were eventually admitted entry into this year’s competition.
Laporta is due to meet with club members on Saturday to discuss their ongoing financial woes, with Barcelona attempting to fund a €1.5bn rebuild of their Camp Nou home, with the first-team playing their matches at the Olympic Stadium in Montjuic for the time being.