Barça threw balls out before the Prosecutor’s Office about the payments to Negreira: “It cannot be affirmed who, from FCB, commissioned the services” | Sports
FC Barcelona has not been able, for now, to give a reasonable public explanation for the 7.3 million euros that, over 17 years and under four different presidents, it made to former referee José María Enríquez Negreira. He did not know how to do it either when he was required to do so by the Tax Agency and the Prosecutor’s Office. Through its legal representatives, the club assumed that it did not have any contract or documentation that endorsed the services allegedly provided by Negreira and threw balls out: “It cannot be affirmed who, on the part of the FCB, was responsible for commissioning the services”, according to one of the documents included in the judicial investigation, the content of which EL PAÍS has had access to.
The origin of Negreira case It is an inspection by the Treasury of Dasnil and Nilsad, the companies with which Negreira billed Barça for alleged verbal advice of which there is no trace. In his statement, which this newspaper advanced on Friday, the former vice president of the Technical Arbitration Committee (CTA) explained that the club paid him because he was afraid of being harmed in competitions and wanted to ensure the “neutral” behavior of the referees, so that did not favor rival teams. Suspecting that the disbursements were not due to real services, the Tax Agency also asked the club, which was unable to articulate an explanation. “No contract was formalized in writing with said company [Dasnil]. The club does not know the details of the formalization of the verbal contract since we should go back to 2001. In other words, the people who had to negotiate said contracts are no longer employees of the club,” the Barça entity responded in writing.
The investigation has proven that, between 2001 and 2018 —under the presidencies of Joan Gaspart, Joan Laporta, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu— Barça paid Negreira 7.3 million euros. The relationship ended in the summer of 2018, coinciding with the departure of Negreira from the governing body of the referees. After the complaint by the Prosecutor’s Office against Barça for a continuous crime of corruption in sport, a Barcelona judge is already investigating whether part of that money was used to buy the will of Spanish referees, so that they favored the Barça club on the field of game. Negreira denied having paid arbitrators, but his habit of withdrawing money in cash through checks is one of the elements that makes investigators suspect that he may have been able to make payments to third parties.
No person in charge of Barça, in any case, could or knew how to explain to the authorities the real reason for the payments, that is, the original sin, beyond the concepts that the invoices include. “Little more can be said since, as has been pointed out, the people who negotiated these contracts are no longer part of the club’s squad,” María Isabel M., on behalf of Barça, responded to the Treasury. Negreira maintains that there was never a contract, but that it was a verbal agreement between him and the successive presidents of the club, with whom he dealt regularly.
Before the Treasury, Barça had to end up signing an act of conformity in which they agreed to regularize the corporate tax and VAT for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017. The club assumed that neither VAT nor corporate spending should have been deducted of the invoices paid to Dasnil and Nilsad, which were described as a “liberality”, a legal concept in which whoever pays does so without expecting compensation. In other words, a kind of gift. According to sources consulted by this newspaper, for FC Barcelona that is as much as accepting a tax infraction, even though it will not have criminal consequences since the agreement was closed in administrative proceedings. These same sources underline that the fact that Barça was already sentenced, in 2016, for two tax offenses after assuming their criminal responsibility and paying a fine of 5.5 million in the agreement may have weighed. Neymar case.
The club sent two ex-directors
The Tax Agency transferred its suspicions about dealings with Negreira to the Prosecutor’s Office, which began its investigation in May 2022. Requested by the police, the club directed by Joan Laporta delivered a copy of the invoices and proof of payment, but insisted that it did not have more information and, as the period investigated initially included the years 2016 to 2018, it sent two people who formed part of Josep Maria Bartomeu’s circle of trust (2014-2020): the former CEO Òscar Grau and the former sports manager Albert Soler. They would be “additional sources of information”, according to a letter dated July 5, 2022 signed by Lluís Mellado, director of the legal area. “We refer to the concepts that appear in the invoices […] It cannot be affirmed who, on behalf of the FCB, was responsible for commissioning the services”, the letter underlined. In their reports, the Police ended up reproaching Barça for the “scarce documentation” provided.
The agents located Grau and Soler, who testified as witnesses. In his appearance, Grau said that he was “unaware of the existing relationship” between Negreira and Barça until 2018, when, due to the financial difficulties the club was going through, “a thorough review of the budget was carried out”. Bartomeu agreed to eliminate the payments, which provoked the ire of Negreira, who sent several burofaxes threatening to air secrets: “If there is no agreement, all the irregularities will come out.” When Barça turned off the tap, Dasnil’s income plummeted and Negreira had to put a stop to his high lifestyle as well.
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