February 28 – Former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has been released from prison on bail after 643 days in custody on charges of money laundering. He had been denied bail several times, but a defiant Rosell maintains his innocence.
Rosell stands accused of having laundered €15 million in Andorra for TV rights to friendly matches of the Brazilian national team before he became president of FC Barcelona in 2010. Rosell has previously worked in Brazil and his relationship with Ricardo Teixeira, a former CBF strongman, had always raised suspicion.
This week Rosell was allowed bail after a three-day hearing by Spain’s national court, which decided that the former Barcelona strongman and his business partner Joan Besoli were no longer a flight risk and could be released. Rosell’s trial is expected to end on March 28 as prosecutors push for an 11-year sentence and a fine of nearly €60 million.
Rosell’s release is conditional: his passport has been taken from him and he must reside at a fixed address in Spain. He must also present himself at the court as and when required.
In 2014 Rosell’s star began to fade when he resigned as Barcelona president after he was accused of the misappropriation of funds from the signing of Neymar. Josep Maria Bartomeu, his number two and current Barcelona president, succeeded him.
Three years later, Rosell was arrested in ‘Operation Rimet’ and accused of money-laundering. Local authorities said the operation used information from the FBI’s FIFAGate case.
In spite of his time behind bars and the accusations leveled at him, Rosell was defiant when he left prison. “I won’t respond to the [prosecution] because their indictment is full of falsities,” said Rosell. “There was no commission – neither legal nor illegal – there was just an agreed-upon payment made to company legally.”
“I am prepared to put up all of my estate (valued at €36 million) for bail. I will never miss a visit. I am innocent. I will defend my prestige and my honour. I make all my assets available as a guarantee of that.”
On Twitter Bartomeu also offered his support for the former Barcelona president. “Finally, a completely unjust situation has ended for Sandro Rosell and Joan Besoli,” tweeted the Barcelona boss. “Twenty-one months in prison. Now free, surrounded by friends and family, they can better defend their innocence.”
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