On Monday, local authorities from Mossos d’Esquadra’s Economic Offences Unit were spotted at Barcelona's headquarters raiding offices at the Camp Nou. Reports later revealed that the operation was related to last year’s “Barça-gate" scandal while it was also reported that former Barcelona chief Josep Maria Bartomeu was one of the many that were arrested as part of the operation. Netizens have now been curious to know more about the Barcagate scandal and why Bartomeu was arrested over the incident that rocked the club in February 2020.
In February 2020, under Bartomeu's reign, Barcelona were accused of paying a third-party company to smear former players, current players and presidential candidates on social media. At the time, reports claimed that Barcelona hired a company called I3 Ventures to run a smear campaign that targetted anyone who opposed Bartomeu's administration. Current stars Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique as well as club legends Pep Guardiola and Xavi were among those allegedly targeted by the company.
The negative stories were brought to light by radio station Cadena SER but Barcelona immediately denied the allegations and rescinded their contract with I3 Ventures in the wake of the news. An external audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers later cleared Barcelona of any wrongdoing and also found that the club did not pay an inflated price for a number of services with I3, absolving the club of any corruption on a financial level.
The police had been investigating this incident since it was leaked by the media that Barcelona paid this company in a way that avoided scrutiny by the club’s members and all of those in charges.— Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) March 1, 2021
However, local authorities continued to look into the case and had it re-opened later in the year. They raided the club's Camp Nou offices in June in search of documents relating to the allegations. Now, on Monday, as reported by the Spanish media, a number of Barcelona employees were asked to leave the Camp Nou as police returned again, seeking more evidence to aid their inquiry.
Bartomeu, Oscar Grau and Roman Ponti have been arrested by the police because of the #BarcaGate scandal, where the club hired and overpaid for a company to smear some of the club’s footballers (including Messi) and political opponents.— Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) March 1, 2021
Bartomeu and several other members of the Barcelona board announced their resignations later that year but are being accused of being involved among the guilty party of the Barcagate scandal. According to reports from Spanish news outlet AS, Bartomeu, his adviser Jaume Masferrer, the club's current CEO Oscar Grau and head of legal services Roman Gomez Ponti have been arrested as part of the operation. A spokesman for the local police also confirmed that "arrests are taking place but we cannot give names. We are in the process of carrying out an operation at the moment with agents from the financial crimes unit."