Catalan police believe Barça hid information from them

Former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, now free on bail, appears to be the ideologue of the plot

4 min
Josep Maria Bartomeu

BarcelonaBarçagate assails Josep Maria Bartomeu, who appears as a possible ideologist of the whole plot investigated in a report of the Mossos d'Esquadra that is part of the investigation of the case. The ex-president of Barça spent the night of Monday to Tuesday detained in the police station of Les Corts, alone in a prison cell, and was transferred in the morning to the Ciutat de la Justícia, where he refused to declare on the advice of his lawyers, since they had not been able to consult the investigation. 

Once the investigation was opened, the defences are already working on a case in which a report by the Mossos considers that the club's president may have "exceeded his powers of administration" by paying an "overprice" for the services contracted from the company I3 Ventures. In total, "the damage caused to Futbol Club Barcelona and to the whole of its social mass, direct product of exceeding his powers of administration, can be quantified so far in an amount of a minimum of 843,300 and a maximum of 1.2 million". Bartomeu appears in the investigation as a possible promoter of these businesses, which would have been carried out by his right-hand man, Jaume Masferrer, who liaised with I3 Ventures, periodically receiving their reports. 

Both Bartomeu and Masferrer pleaded their right not to testify yesterday and then were released on bail, in a new episode of a case in which the Mossos suspect that Barça did not fully cooperate by hiding information.

Lists of journalists

The case stems from the contracting of the company I3 Ventures to create states of opinion on social networks in favour of the management of Bartomeu's board and against players such as Gerard Piqué and Leo Messi, and aspirants to the presidency of the club such as Víctor Font and Joan Laporta. In fact, the Mossos have contributed to the investigation with a document from the company I3 Ventures from June 2018 with a list of journalists and people around Barça who "had to be discredited". Names such as Víctor Font, who it is said should be attacked for being "the owner of a media outlet", referring to his shares in ARA, Joan Laporta, Jordi Costa, Xavi Torres, Jaume Roures, Jordi Roche and people who are part of Font's candidacy, such as Antoni Bassas and Albert Roura, or Laporta's, such as Elena Fort. Jordi Costa, presenter of the programme Tot Costa on Catalunya Ràdio radio station, is considered to "constantly criticise Bartomeu and the board, and he is an indepe" (an independentist). Regarding the founder of the Mediapro Group, Jaume Roures, I3 Ventures writes: " To talk about him being part of the club's mafias (to make a report on the club's mafias?), that Roures participated in all the club's corruption processes (to tone him down on the independence issue, not to mention that he is an independentist so as not to make independentists blindly support people who are corrupt, for instance)". And regarding the players' representative Josep Maria Minguella, who recently formed part of Emili Rousaud's pre-candidacy, it is explained that "he has zero credibility, he is a commissioner, when he was sacked he put his son in his place, believing that Barto [Bartomeu] is a fool".

Moreover, according to La Vanguardia, the idea was to create databases for the club's supporters to use as a means of "private propaganda", according to the Mossos. The idea was to create databases to send personalized messages to improve the image of Bartomeu's board.

The Mossos d'Esquadra arrested on Monday Bartomeu, Masferrer, Òscar Grau (current CEO of the entity) and Roman Gomez Ponti (head of the legal area) as part of the Barçagate investigation. Grau and Gómez Ponti were released a few hours later, but Bartomeu and Masferrer had to spend the night at the police station before being brought before the court and released on bail. The magistrate Alejandra Gil, of the court number 13 of Barcelona, lifted the gag order - that had been extended up to six occasions - of a case in which the Barça continues to appear as the damaged party, but not as the investigated party. This fact, in principle, exempts the club of responsibilities that, in case of proving that it has incurred in some crime, would fall on the people in question and not on the entity.

Possible "considerations"

In a report within the investigation, the Mossos explain that during three years, from 2017 to 2020, the payments to the Nicestream group, to which the company I3 Ventures belongs, reached 2.3 million. The contracted services were to monitor the club's reputation on social networks, but "an allegedly particular use in social networks" has also been detected. In other words, the creation of defamatory content. These payments were split to avoid having to go through the Adjudications Commission, the body that controls all payments over 200,000 euros. Some of the people in charge of the areas in which these invoices were split without having anything to do with their services have admitted to the Mossos that Bartomeu and Masferrer were unable to explain the reasons for this practice. Only one area, the Hong Kong office, headed at the time by Xavier Asensi, refused to pass on the invoices, arguing that it was an incorrect practice.

The Mossos have allegedly detected that Bartomeu's management had hidden information from them, which is why they also searched the headquarters of Telam Partners, the company that put the club in contact with I3 Ventures. Sources in the investigation explain that the external audit commissioned by Bartomeu from PricewaterhouseCoopers does not match the documentation found in the searches. In addition, the Mossos were able to work with a report made by Barça's compliance officer, Noelia Romero, who was fired shortly after completing it. Romero took her computer and the work she had done to the Mossos to collaborate with the investigation. Her computer contained documents that the club had not initially offered to the Mossos.

According to the Mossos, this case could involve a crime of disloyal administration by having used money from the club to pay bills above the market price. The second offence of which the detainees are accused is corruption between private individuals, as the Mossos believe that "directors, administrators, workers or collaborators" could have received "considerations" to award the contracts to these companies.