Following the trail of the money from Barça to Negreira: “He asked me to go collect checks from the bank” | Sports

José María Enríquez Negreira, during his time as a First Division referee.
José María Enríquez Negreira, during his time as a First Division referee.Luis Magan

Antoni ended up becoming a linesman late and by chance. He took the whistle in a party between company colleagues when the referee who was supposed to do it did not show up. “I liked the feeling of authority,” he explains at the age of 78 as he recalls his rise through the lower categories of Catalan football and how an already established referee, José María Enríquez Negreira, invited him to debut in a First Division match. “It was a Malaga-Valencia. The field was under construction and they threw a piece of dry cement at me, ”he recalls with a smile.

It was the beginning of a friendship that was born on the playing fields and grew in the best restaurants and nightclubs in Barcelona. “When I went with him, I never paid anything. It was attractive to accompany him because everyone knew him”, he explains about Negreira, who in 1993 became vice president of the Arbitration Technical Committee (CTA), the governing body of Spanish referees. He would not leave office until 2018. By then the partying had been put aside, but Antoni (he asks that his real identity be protected) continued to frequent him. “He invited me to go through his company [Dasnil]we would have a coffee and he would send me to collect some checks”.

From Dasnil’s headquarters on Calle del Olvido —whose main activity all those years was billing Barça—, Antoni would go on foot to the nearest offices of Banco Sabadell and La Caixa, and cashed the bearer checks at the teller window. “I was charging for three years. I did it about 50 times, sometimes every two or three days. They were always amounts less than 3,000 euros. I remember, because it was repeated a lot, the figure of 2,850 euros”, says Antoni, who delivered the envelope with the money to Negreira or to the ex-referee’s secretary, CD, never to other people. “My big question was how he was doing so well with a gift company, that he sold pens for companies. He never told me that he was paid by Barça, nor did I ask him ”.

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Antoni’s explanation to this newspaper coincides with his statement, as a witness, before the Prosecutor’s Office in the investigation of the Negreira case, to which EL PAÍS has agreed: “He asked me to go collect checks from the bank.” He, out of friendship, and CD, because she is Dasnil’s secretary, are the two people who, according to the investigation, collected the money that Negreira received from Barça the most times. Only in the 2016-2018 period (the one investigated by the Tax Agency), the Barça club paid 1.4 million euros to number two of the referees for alleged verbal advice of which there is no trace and that, according to the hypothesis of public accusation, served to seek the favor of the arbitrators. Almost a third of that money (550,000 euros) was withdrawn in cash.

The constant withdrawal of cash is one of the most solid indications of an investigation that has tried to follow, so far without success, the money trail. The banks were able to find Antoni and CD (their signatures appeared on the back of some checks), but in many other cases “they do not identify the natural person who collects”. “The beneficiary could have been José María Enríquez or any other person”, but the fact is that “no third party has been found to whom funds from the FCB have been allocated”, admits the Tax Agency in one of the reports contributed to the cause. Nor did the Police, who led the investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office, find the key to the problem. But in their conclusions, the agents insist on one idea: cash withdrawals “give rise to the suspicion that they could be intended to pay cash to third parties to prevent their identity from being known, as well as the concept of payments” .

Although it seems like a dead end, the Barcelona magistrate who has now assumed the reins of the case, Silvia López, is not discouraged and has ordered the Civil Guard to find out the “reason” for the millionaire payments to the former arbitration leader and also the “destination ” given to that money. The payments allegedly began in 2001, under the presidency of Joan Gaspart, and were maintained over time under three other presidents: Joan Laporta, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu. In total, 7.3 million euros. Rosell and Bartomeu are being investigated for corruption in the sports field, unfair administration and false commercial documents. FC Barcelona also has the status of being investigated, for corruption in sport, as a legal entity.

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Negreira maintained, before the Treasury, that the friend and the secretary gave him the money by hand, that he was always the only beneficiary of the payments and that he never gave any amount to arbitrators or former arbitrators. Investigators doubt his version. Although he led a high lifestyle—those who knew him have affirmed, even publicly, that he was like that—half a million in three years is a lot of money. And even more if one takes into account that, in that period and according to the case reports, the former referee spent another 130,000 euros with his credit card.

In the Prosecutor’s investigation (which began in May 2022), the police could not appreciate “an increase in assets” that justifies this income. One of the first decisions of the magistrate, precisely, has been that the Civil Guard carry out a “heritage investigation” on Negreira, but also on “her close environment of her”. Antoni, who knows the character well, has his own theory about it: “His life consisted of spending and spending. He liked the best restaurants, the best cars… I would tell you that he has burned the seven million”.

The dismissal of the secretary

If Antoni continues, in some way, to show sympathy for Negreira, the same does not seem to happen in the case of CD, who also cashed part of the checks and assured, in his statement before the Prosecutor’s Office, that he did know the origin of the income. of the company The 65-year-old woman explained that she was Dasnil’s administrative and accountant. She sent the invoices to Barça by order of her boss, but she “did not see on any occasion” that he worked on reports nor did she herself send any kind of document to the club.

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CD was in her position until she was “fired” in December 2018 “because the company stopped having FCB as a client” and revenue “decreased by 70%”. In reality, according to data from the commercial register, they plummeted. In 2018 (payments were interrupted in July) Dasnil entered 329,373 euros (of which 97% came from Barça); the following year, just 7,348. The secretary declared that, in her opinion, the “only reason” why the club closed the tap was because he “ceased to be vice president” of the Technical Arbitration Committee. The former referee called Bartomeu in front of her, but he “never answered the calls.”

Since then, the Treasury has verified “a decrease in the level of spending” by Negreira, who reacted angrily to the end of his generous salary and threatened Barça with “uncovering all the irregularities” of the club. His financial situation is complicated because, according to the Treasury regularization proposal, Negreira obtained an unjustified capital gain, since he did not prove the reality of the work for Barça. Despite the fact that he testified before the Treasury, Negreira remained silent before the Prosecutor’s Office on the grounds that he suffers from Alzheimer’s. His lawyer provided a report and said that he is not in a position to testify or submit to criminal proceedings.

Despite their long friendship, Antoni assures that he has not contacted Negreira since the scandal broke out: “I don’t want to bother him,” he says. Seen in hindsight, he thinks it was all a big illusion of a charming man and a huge commercial. “He has sold smoke to Barça and has been living like a maharajah.”

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