Refereeing Payments Scandal Resurfaces as Laporta Denies Wrongdoing
Barcelona’s president, Joan Laporta, is facing charges of suspected bribery in connection to payments made to a referee, reigniting a refereeing scandal that has cast a shadow over the Catalan club. Reports from Spain reveal that Laporta has been charged in relation to payments totaling more than €7 million (£6 million) made to companies linked to former La Liga referee Jose María Enríquez Negreira, who had previously denied showing favoritism towards Barcelona in refereeing decisions.
The allegations against Barcelona prompted an initial investigation, with the club being charged with suspected bribery. Laporta, however, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, maintaining his innocence in the face of mounting legal scrutiny.
The scandal traces back to payments made to companies associated with Negreira, and Laporta’s denial has been consistent. In April, during a two-hour press conference, Laporta addressed the accusations, stating, “The tax agency has not been able to demonstrate that the payments made could have affected any result. And they have not been able to demonstrate it because it was not possible.”
Laporta emphasized that the payments occurred over a span of 17 years and were made in the context of various studies. He discredited the notion that Negreira had the ability to influence match officials or manipulate game outcomes, asserting that the allegations of such influence were “totally false.”
Recent developments indicate that Laporta is now facing charges related to his first stint as Barcelona president between 2003 and 2010. Spanish outlet EFE reports that the charges stem from a period of approximately 18 years, during which payments increased annually. Judge Joaquin Aguirre stated, “The payments produced the arbitration effects desired by FC Barcelona, in such a way that there must have been inequality in the treatment with other teams and the consequent systemic corruption in the Spanish arbitration as a whole.”
As Laporta contends with the resurfaced scandal, Barcelona and its president find themselves entangled in a legal battle that could have far-reaching implications for the club and Spanish football as a whole.
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