Former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has been provisionally released after his arrest on Monday as part of an investigation into ‘Barcagate’ at Camp Nou, Goal can confirm.
Cadena SER broke the news that former members of the Catalan club’s board had been taken into custody following a raid on offices by regional police officers.
That process started in the early hours of Monday with a request for all relevant documentation to be passed over by Barca employees and for material relating to the long-running case to be seized by authorities.
What has happened?
Goal has learned that Bartomeu has been provisionally released after spending Monday night in jail, with the 58-year-old having invoked his right not to testify.
Alongside Bartomeu, it is understood that three other arrests were made. They include Chief Executive Officer of the club, Oscar Grau, former adviser to the presidency Jaume Masferrer, and head legal counsel Roman Gomez Ponti.
Catalan police are said to have left offices at Camp Nou on Monday morning after carrying out a search and headed to the home of Bartomeu.
What have Barcelona said?
Barcelona released a statement which read: "Before the entry and search by the Catalan Police force this morning at the Camp Nou offices under the instruction of the Instructing Court number 13 in Barcelona, which is in charge of the case relating to the contacting of monitoring services on social networks, FC Barcelona have offered up their full collaboration to the legal and police authorities to help make clear facts which are subject to investigation.
"The information and documentation requested by the judicial police force relate strictly to the facts relative to this case.
"FC Barcelona express its great respect for the judicial process in place and for the principle of presumed innocence for the people affected within the remit of this investigation."
What is Barcagate?
Bartomeu’s administration has been accused of paying PR company I3 to oversee online work for the club.
It is alleged that I3 were paid to clear up Bartomeu’s image, as he came under fire from a disgruntled fan base, while disparaging the reputation of a number of current and former players – including Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Xavi.
A year has passed since reports of wrongdoing on the part of Barca board members first surfaced.
Barca and I3 were quick to refute the allegations and an audit conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that no defamatory campaigns had been launched any against individual.
Links between the Liga giants and I3 were broken off, but police forces have continued to look into the matter.
They first raided offices at Camp Nou in June 2020 and have now returned to step up their investigation.
All of those at the centre of the allegations are innocent until proven otherwise.
When did Bartomeu leave?
He was the subject of a vote of no confidence from club supporters, with the decision taken to walk away before he was ousted from a prominent position.
No successor has been elected as yet, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic causing problems for sporting institutions around the world.
Barca are, however, hoping to get a new figurehead in place on March 7, with Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa the three remaining candidates left in the running to fill a vacant presidential post.