Ex-Barça President Josep Maria Bartomeu is in police custody
Photo: Emilio Morenatti / AP
At the end of this week there should be a departure at FC Barcelona.
After months of agony, the members elect a new president on Sunday.
The ballot box is considered the most important in the club's history, because there are many contaminated sites to be disposed of - the turbulent start of the week tells of this.
Since Josep Maria Bartomeu stepped down as president in October, the club has not been in the headlines.
If it's not the resentment of the superstar Lionel Messi, is it the consequences of miserable squad planning or the announcement of new record debts.
And then the police come to Camp Nou.
At around eleven o'clock in the morning, officers from the Economic Crime Unit appeared.
As in the previous summer, they looked for documents in the affair known as "Barçagate" about the targeted discrediting of Bartomeu opponents, players and club legends via obscure platforms in the social networks.
This time the investigators of the "Mossos d'Esquadra" did not stop at a raid.
They conducted interrogations, disconnected employees from their company computers and took CEO Òscar Grau and in-house lawyer Ramón Gómez Ponti with them to the police station - where Bartomeu, who was arrested at his private address, and his long-time intimate partner Jaume Masferrer were waiting.
In the late afternoon, the police finished their searches of Barça's offices;
Bartomeu's quartet was still in custody.
It was supposed to be heard later that evening, but according to "Catalunya Radio" it made use of its right to refuse to testify.
On Tuesday, Bartomeu wanted to testify before the investigating judge.
Criminal tradition line
Barça presidents and the law - not just a love affair since today.
The legendary club boss Josep Lluís Núñez (1978-2000) was later imprisoned for bribing tax inspectors in his main job as a building contractor, as was Sandro Rosell (2010-2014) for suspected corruption in a previous job as a marketer for the Brazilian national team - after almost two years in custody However, the highly controversial process ended with an acquittal.
Just like the quasi-club-internal civil lawsuit that Rosell's squad had brought against those of his predecessor Joan Laporta (2003-2010) for allegedly deficient bookkeeping.
The enormous tensions within the association were also the inspiration behind »Barçagate«.
Rasputin Masferrer organized counter-propaganda for an increasingly hapless and therefore increasingly criticized Bartomeu.
The targets of mocking defamation included main characters of the opposing current such as Laporta, his former trainer Pep Guardiola or the entrepreneur Víctor Font;
but also current stars like Lionel Messi and Gerard Piqué or recently retired ones like Xavi Hernández and Carles Puyol.
Bartomeu always asserted that it was an abuse of an agreement with the company I3 Ventures, about which he and his people had no knowledge.
The contract to entrepreneur Carlos Ibáñez for the association's “Online Reputation Management” only included analyzes of network debates, but not their influencing.
But even a rather weighted investigation report by the auditors PwC commissioned by Bartomeu, which the club tried to portray as an acquittal in the summer, saw at least Masferrer as an “accomplice” and “participant” in the disinformation strategies.
From a legal point of view, it is about possible embezzlement - or even more?
One of the inconsistencies of the affair has always been that the order worth around one million euros a year was broken up into several small contracts with various Ibáñez companies.
So he did not have to pass the board of directors' award committee.
The chairman of this commission, Emili Rousaud, resigned with five other board members in protest against "Barçagate" and speculated at the time: "Somebody put his hand in the till".
In the rumor on Monday, there was suddenly even a suspicion of money laundering.
However, the police do not comment on details for the time being: classified information.
Visit of the »Mossos«: The economic department of the criminal police during the raid on Camp Nuo
Photo: Lorena Sopêna I Lòpez / dpa
In a communiqué, the association emphasized its “maximum respect” for both the “legal investigation” and the “principle of the presumption of innocence”.
The fact that an (ex) club boss is arrested for a possible crime in the execution of his official business is a novelty even in Barça's storms.
On the other hand, too hasty conclusions were forbidden: the police in Spain like it spectacular, the Catalan »Mossos« make no difference to the national »Guardia Civil«, which has always been known for their high-profile raids in sports - the pillory is then already erected before differentiation begins in tough legal proceedings.
Bartomeu's possible successors are still silent
In the "Barçagate" case, the investigation procedure has already been extended six times by the responsible court in Barcelona and is now expected to end on March 10th.
That could explain the date of the arrests.
But the fan initiative “Dignitat Blaugrana”, whose advertisement started the investigation, is surprised: “Curious that the topic explodes after so many months just in the week of the elections, isn't it?” One hopes that “the candidates are now silent break and take a stand on such a critical issue «.
You will see it in the TV and radio models these days.
The clear favorite to go to the polls is Laporta, who has so far been more concerned with avoiding controversy.
Freixa, on the other hand, who was active under Rosell together with Bartomeu until 2014, is now all the more an outsider because of his relative proximity to the fallen regime: He tried conspiracy theories on Monday ("Too many people are targeting Barça").
The third candidate, Font, is most likely to try to profit from the events: he is unsullied by any dark tradition due to a lack of previous club activity and was also the most frequent target of the discrediting Barçagate attacks.
And what about football?
In the midst of the chaos, Barça will play the most important game of the season so far on Wednesday.
Sevilla come to the cup semi-final second leg, they have to catch up with a 0-2.
In view of five points behind in the league and a clear first leg defeat at home in the Champions League against Paris St. Germain, it is probably about the greatest remaining title chance.
And a plaster on many wounds.
Icon: The mirror