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Factory of trolls and corruption. Will the former president of Barcelona Bartomeu be jailed for 4 years?

Date: June 20, 2024 Time: 11:08:48

March 2005 At the meeting of the Barcelona board of directors, among other issues, the approval of the candidacy of the new coach of the basketball team was considered. It was presented by the director of this sport, Josep María Bartomeu, there were no problems, but Joan Laporta, who at that time held the position of president of Barça, strongly opposed it. “Josep was painful to watch: he had to endure public humiliation just because he was a supporter of Laporta’s main opponent, Sandro Rosell,” said former Barcelona sporting director Chiki Begiristain, who was present at the meeting.

Josep’s main passion is basketball. He even played point guard for little known clubs Molle, Santa Coloma and Banca Catalana. After the end of his sports career, Bartomeu focused on his father’s family business and ended up becoming the director of Grupo Adelte, which designs and manufactures aerial stairs for airplanes, as well as other technologies necessary for the operation of airports. . In the early 2000s, the businessman was earning enough and acquired enough connections to get on Barcelona’s board of directors.

Josep Bartomeu

Photo: AP/TASS

The official’s ambitions were limited to the development of basketball in the club’s structure, but Laporta’s humiliation made Josep dream of the presidency with the sole purpose of having the privilege of making decisions alone. Power for Bartomeu became not a means, but an end. Such a notorious person nearly bankrupted Barcelona, ​​and he himself faces a prison sentence of six months to four years for participating in corruption schemes, with a six-year ban from holding managerial positions.

Bartomeu approves Messi’s crazy contract for 555 million euros

This summer, Barcelona has limitations when it comes to signing players: the problem was not even finding money (although this too), but the impossibility of signing newcomers due to the salary cap. In many ways, this is an echo of the Bartomeu period, in which the club reached a crazy peak in just a few seasons, and then was on the brink of bankruptcy. At the end of the 2017/2018 financial year, Barça became the first club in history whose annual revenue exceeded one billion dollars (1,050 million dollars). This made it possible to live large and pay players crazy salaries.

Messi and Bartomeu after signing the Argentine’s fat contract with Barcelona in 2017

Photo by: ZumaTASS

Bartomeu looked like an incredibly rich sheikh from an oil power: he enjoyed fame and money, gave interviews and could easily afford players worth more than €100 million. Only in 2018 he paid a total of 275 million euros for Ousmane Dembélé and Philippe Coutinho. and two more considered an appropriate price of 120 million euros for Antoine Griezmann. And all this against the background of Lionel Messi’s fattest four-year contract: in 2017, the club, under a new agreement, undertook to pay the Argentine 138 million euros per season + bonuses. According to El Mundo Deportivo, Leo should have enriched himself with 555 million euros; Barça still pays him this amount in installments.

Messi’s crazy salary helped other players get an appetite. Not surprisingly, in such a scenario, the €222 million proceeds from the sale of Neymar to PSG quickly vanished, and after a few seasons, a stupefied Bartomeu found the pit empty. It is likely that the feasting on the name of the president who has lost touch with reality would have continued, but all the economic miscalculations of the leadership were exposed by the covid.

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Profits plummeted and the club could no longer meet the exorbitant demands of the players. According to a Deloitte audit published in February 2022, Barcelona’s debt amounted to 1,173 million euros (today, 1,350 million euros), and losses, 481 million euros. It also turned out that the salary fund of the Catalans at that time was 40% higher than the costs of this item from other major clubs.

The president used the services of the troll factory at the expense of Barcelona

Bartomeu managed to hide the true situation for a long time: he flaunted an achievement of one billion euros per season at every corner and ignored any criticism. They not only ignored him, but he also proved to be a very vindictive person. In February 2020, an anonymous source told Radio Cadena SER that Barcelona had hired I3 Ventures, whose job it was to create a positive image of Bartomeu while he vilified and criticized the players. An army of bots praised Josep with fake social media accounts and trolls against Gerard Piqué, Lionel Messi and even club legends like Josep Guardiola and Carles Puyol. Any person who expresses his disagreement with the actions or position of the president.

It is doubly immoral and even more criminal that the services of I3 Ventures, which cost around 1 million euros, have not been paid for by Bartomeu himself, but by the Barcelona treasury. Payment was made according to an interesting scheme: six contracts were signed with the troll factory, each of which did not exceed 200,000 euros. The trick was that amounts above this mark had to be agreed with the board of directors. “It is disgusting that I, as a Barça player, have had to deal with the fact that the Club spends money – the money that we are now demanding from them – to criticize not only an outsider who used to be associated with the Club, but the existing players. Piqué was outraged.

Gerard Piqué

Photo: Lola Bou/Getty Images

Bartomeu dismissed the accusations and stated that I3 Ventures was only working to improve the image of the club. In an attempt to silence the situation, Josep sacrificed his closest collaborator, the club’s vice president, Emily Ruso, who was fired. However, the resonance was so strong that, together with Ruso, five more top managers of the club resigned and wrote an open letter expressing their concern about the current situation.

“I discovered many facts of corruption,” Emily tried to cover up. – After the internal investigation initiated by me, all information about contracts with various companies, one of which is located in an offshore zone, was removed. All of this was done in order to bypass internal control and pass the audit. I pointed out these violations and they fired me.” Thus, Ruso almost directly accused Bartomeu of fraud, and he responded by suing his former friend for defamation.

In October 2021, at a meeting of club members, the president received a vote of no confidence and was forced to resign. The following March, Bartomeu and Jaume Masferrer, chief curator of the I3 Ventures deal, were arrested and spent a night in jail, but the magistrate agreed to release both suspects on undisclosed bail. The first court session is scheduled for September 2023.

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Bartomeu was accused of fraud with the transfer of Neymar

While Barça is governed by Laporta, the only club president in the 21st century who has not been arrested by the police, Bartomeu’s criminal activities are taking on new details. In addition to the troll factory, investigators from the Mossos d’Esquadra of the Catalan police discovered that the former president of the blue garnet pocketed money from the club through the agency Amalgama Marketing SL, which participated in the campaign for his candidacy for the presidency of Barcelona in the 2015 elections.

This agency belongs to the Sambola family, a close friend of Bartomeu and during the five years that Josep was president, he received orders from the club for 1.7 million euros. Amalgama Marketing SL participated in the campaign to promote Messi as a favorite for the Oro Ball, worked on improving the image of the players and on other similar projects. However, it turned out that only a fifth of the funds went to their intended destination, the rest were redistributed through shell companies among journalists who worked to discredit Bartomeu’s competitors, and were also transferred to the president’s father.

Bartomeu, along with his lawyers, is sent for another interrogation

Photo: Albert Llop/Getty Images

Such a plan was necessary to hide payments from Price Waterhouse Cooper, one of several audit firms hired by Barcelona after Josep’s resignation to carry out an independent audit of the accounts. In addition, Bartomeu is suspected of being involved in another scandal: the so-called “Negreira case”. Former Spanish referee chief José María Negreira could have received up to 7.3 million euros from Barcelona between 2001 and 2018.

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The club gave Bartomeu an unusual but accurate nickname

To better unveil Josep’s portrait, it is important to remember that he, along with another former Barcelona president, Rosell, was charged with fraud in Neymar’s transfer from Santos in 2013. Bartomeu shone for two years and three months in prison with the obligation to pay a fine of 3.8 million euros, but in the end an agreement was reached with the prosecution. The club took legal responsibility for the crime, but all those involved went unpunished.

After being re-elected in 2015, Bartomeu’s dream of having full power at the club came true. He dismissed Barça’s vice president for economic affairs, as well as the vice president for all sports, and took over their powers. Josep also insisted on the transfers of certain players, even when the environment tried to dissuade him by all possible means (clear examples are Coutinho and Griezmann). No wonder Bartomeu was nicknamed Nobita at the club, after the character from the Japanese children’s show “Doraemon”. Nobita is a capricious 10-year-old boy who gets everything by throwing tantrums or intrigues. It is a pity that such a famous person has taken power in one of the best clubs.

* This website provides news content gathered from various internet sources. It is crucial to understand that we are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information presented Read More

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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