Josep Maria Bartomeu and other former Barcelona directors have been arrested this Monday morning over the Barcagate scandal.
They were taken into custody by the Mossos de Esquadra – the Catalan police force – who have been searching the club’s offices.
Here, we outline exactly what the Barcagate scandal is and what it means for Bartomeu and his former colleagues.
The Barcagate investigation started after a complaint was made by a group of members called Dignitat Blaugrana.
They made this complaint after the I3 Ventures story came out, which alleged that Barcelona paid this company for social media monitoring work and also, potentially, for publications that would try to boost Bartomeu’s image and damage those of players and certain former directors.
- When did this case emerge?
It was on February 17, 2020, that Cadena SER revealed that Barcelona had contracted I3 Ventures since the end of 2017.
It was reported that this company, owned by Carlos Ibanez, used at least six different Facebook accounts to disparage Barcelona figures who were not aligned with Bartomeu.
Players like Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique were among those to be criticised.
- What crimes are being alleged?
The judicial investigation is looking at a possible crime of improper management in the case of having paid an inflated and above-market-value price for these services.
They are also looking at a possible crime of corruption by individuals, should any director have received a commission.
A report from the criminal investigations unit of the Catalan police force was handed in to judge Alejandra Gil Lima, of the 13th Barcelona investigating court, and it is believed to have mentioned signs of corruption considering that the club might have paid a price “six times higher” than the market rate for the services.
- Which businesses are involved in Barcagate?
According to the reports, Barcelona paid 1m euros per year to I3 Ventures for social media monitoring and social media promotion of Bartomeu and his board.
The payments were allegedly made through various invoices that passed through different departments and that were always below 200,000 euros, meaning they didn’t need approved by the board.
It was later revealed what the various companies were that received such payments. They were NSG Social Science Ventures SL, Tantra Soft SA, Digital Side SA, Big Data Solutions SA and Futuric SA, in addition to I3 Ventures. All of them were linked to Carlos Ibanez.
- What was Barcelona’s official response?
At the time, Barcelona released an official statement that denied the reports.
They did admit that I3 Ventures was “a service provider to the club”, but that there wasn’t a relationship to the accounts posting propaganda.
They said they would end the contract is such behaviour came to light.
- What exactly is Barcelona’s relationship with I3 Ventures?
Cadena SER published a 36-page dossier that they claimed was proof of Barcelona’s relationship with I3 Ventures.
- What did the external audit say?
Price Waterhouse Coopers conducted an external audit for Barcelona that concluded that the club didn’t conduct a smear campaign.
It also said that the fees paid were within the market value of those services at the time.
When did the police first search the offices?
The police returned to the Camp Nou this Monday, but that wasn’t the first time they searched the club offices.
They also did so last summer, looking for documentation relating to this Barcagate scandal.