Former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu was arrested on Monday as part of a police investigation into last year’s ‘BarcaGate’ scandal, a source with knowledge of the case told AFP.
Bartomeu, who resigned as president in October, was among several arrests made just six days ahead of the club’s new presidential elections on Sunday.
Barcelona’s current chief executive Oscar Grau, head of legal services Roma Gomez Ponti and Bartomeu’s advisor Jaume Masferrer were also arrested by Catalan police, who searched the club’s offices on Monday morning.
Bartomeu, Masferrer, Grau and Gomez Ponti “are being detained at the police station” as part of the operation, the same source told AFP.
Barcelona released a statement confirming the operation is linked to last year’s ‘BarcaGate’ controversy, when the club was accused of covering up payments made to a company called I3 Ventures, hired to boost the image of then-president Bartomeu on social media.
A Catalan police spokesman told AFP on Monday morning “arrests are taking place” and said the operation was run by officers from the financial crimes unit.
Part of the social media campaign included criticising current and former players, like Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola and Xavi Hernandez. Messi described the controversy as “strange” in an interview with Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo.
Barca’s statement on Monday read: “Regarding the entry and search by the Catalan Police force this morning at the Camp Nou offices by order of the Instructing Court number 13 in Barcelona, which is in charge of the case relating to the contacting of monitoring services on social networks, FC Barcelona have offered up their full collaboration to the legal and police authorities to help make clear facts which are subject to investigation.