Police swoop on Barca as probe into 2020 social media smear campaign deepens

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March 2 – In dire financial straits and with its presidential election looming, Barcelona have been rocked by another image-shattering setback after Catalan authorities raided their stadium on Monday and made four arrests.

One of those detained was reported to be Josep Maria Bartomeu, the outgoing president, though police did not reveal any names.

The operation was apparently related to the ‘Barcagate’ scandal in 2020 when the club denied hiring a firm to run a smear campaign against their own players on social media in order to improve Bartomeu’s image.

The club’s presidential elections take place on Sunday after Bartomeu announced his resignation in October following months of controversy and a dramatic decline in performances on the pitch.

In a statement, Barcelona said the police searches involved 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 club said.

“The information and documentation requested by the judicial police force relate strictly to the facts relative to this case.

“FC Barcelona expresses its utmost respect for the judicial process in place and for the principle of presumed innocence for the people affected within the remit of this investigation.”

Police said they also searched four other properties as part of their investigation, “which has been going on for almost a year”.

Joan Laporte,  favourite to take over as Barca supremo who, if elected, would be starting a second stint having run the club a decade ago, told a local radio station that what happened on Monday “was a consequence of the bad management by the previous administration.”

He said the news of Bartomeu’s detention was “shocking” and “not good” for the club, but stressed that the former president deserved the “presumption of innocence” adding he was “deeply saddened by these events that cause enormous harm to the image of our club.”

“Facing what happened today with the raids at the club’s headquarters and the detentions of Barça’s ex-president Josep Maria Bartomeu and other executives of the club, our team want to express our utmost respect towards the actions conducted by the judiciary and police authorities as well as utmost respect towards the principle of presumption of innocence.”

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