Police raid Barca’s camp, arrest ex-president, others over ‘smear campaign’ against Messi

Josep Maria Bartomeu Photo: Getty images

Barcelona’s CEO, Oscar Grau, head of legal services Roman Gomez Ponti and Jaume Masferrer, who acted as an adviser to Bartomeu, have been arrested.

It is claimed that they were involved in a campaign to tarnish reputations of past and present players, who were speaking out against him during his presidency.

Bartomeu was arrested by Spanish police for his involvement in the ‘Barcagate’ smear campaign scandal during his time as their club president.

Yesterday morning, Spanish police entered Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium in a search and seize operation. Bartomeu was arrested at home. The Economic Crimes Unit of the Catalonia Police Force are overseeing the searches.

Spanish media said the operation was related to last year’s ‘Barcagate,’ in which club officials were accused of launching a smear campaign against current and former players who were critical of the club and then-president Bartomeu.

Star man, Lionel Messi, veteran defender, Gerard Pique and former manager, now Manchester City boss, Pep Guardiola, were among those targeted by the negative stories and social media posts.

Cadena Ser claimed that I3Ventures, hired by Barcelona, manages various social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook that posted negative stories about Messi, his wife Antonela, Pique, Guardiola, Xavi, Carles Puyol and former president Joan Laporta.

For example, stories about Messi centred on him delaying the signing of his new contract, a particularly divisive issue within the club last summer as the Argentine stood on the brink of leaving. He is still due to leave when his contract expires. It was claimed Barcelona had been using the services of I3Ventures since 2017 and six different invoices have been billed totalling almost €1 million.

Last September, it was reported that the Catalan police had filed a report to the judge investigating Barcelona’s hiring of social media consultancy I3Ventures and ‘possible economic crimes’.

Culled from dailymail.co.uk