Barcelona president Joan Laporta has been charged with bribery over payments made to companies linked to former referee committee vice president José María Enríquez Negreira.
The charges relate to Laporta’s first presidency from 2003-2010 after a judge ruled the final years of that tenure are not time-barred.
Laporta was not initially named when Barcelona were charged with bribery in September. Former presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Bartomeu were among those accused.
However, the judge has now ruled Laporta and his board from 2003-2010 should be investigated as part of an ongoing bribery case.
Barça paid over €7 million to Negreira’s companies from 2001-2018 when he was vice president of the refereeing committee. Prosecutors allege the payments were made in exchange for favorable refereeing decisions, but Laporta has denied this claim.
With the statute of limitations set at 10 years for bribery, Laporta’s final years as president from 2008-2010 can now be examined.
If convicted, Laporta could face 3-6 years in jail. Barcelona meanwhile risk punishments from a warning to potential liquidation depending on the verdict.
La Liga president Javier Tebas admitted he was not surprised by the charges, saying he expected them weeks ago:
“The judge has applied logic. I’ve been surprised people were so surprised by this.”
Tebas has been an outspoken critic of Laporta and Barcelona over the Negreira case since it emerged earlier this year.
At this stage Laporta and Barça are only accused as part of the investigation. But the bribery charges represent a serious threat to Laporta’s presidency and Barcelona’s reputation.