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Barcelona deny corruption after six board members quit

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is under the spotlight with opposition from the dressing room to the boardroom © AFP/File / Josep LAGO

MADRID, Spain, Apr 10 – Barcelona have denied what the club describes as “serious and unfounded accusations” of corruption after a former vice-president claimed someone “had put their hands in the till”.

Emili Rousaud was one of six board members to resign on Thursday night as Barca continue to be embroiled in political crisis under their current president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

All six resigning board members called for the 2021 presidential elections to be brought forward in a joint letter published on Friday by the newspaper La Vanguardia.

In an interview with Spanish radio station Cadena Ser, Rousaud discussed the social media controversy that rocked the club in February, when Barcelona were accused of hiring a company called I3 Ventures to discredit opponents of Bartomeu online, including players like Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique.

“If the auditors tell us the cost of these services is 100,000 euros and we have paid one million, it means someone has put their hand in the till. I have no evidence and I cannot say who,” Rousaud told the programme RAC1 on Friday.

Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique have been monitored by a private company employed by the board © AFP/File / LLUIS GENE

Barcelona responded with an official statement that read: “In the light of the serious and unfounded accusations made this morning by Emili Rousaud, ex-vice president of the club, in different interviews with the media, FC Barcelona categorically denies any activity that can be described as corruption and therefore reserves the right to any legal action that may correspond.”

Bartomeu terminated the club’s contract with I3 Ventures in February. He said the company had been hired only to monitor posts on social media and announced an internal audit to investigate any irregularity.

“The analysis of the monitoring services of social networks is being subjected to an independent audit by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), which is still ongoing and, therefore, without any conclusions,” Barcelona’s statement added.

Rousaud had been appointed as a club vice-president in January and was seen as a leading candidate to succeed Bartomeu, who cannot stand again when the presidential elections come round next year.

Instead, Rousaud has quit, citing frustrations with the club’s management, along with fellow vice-president Enrique Tombas, as well as directors Silvio Elias, Josep Pont, Jordi Calsamiglia and Maria Teixidor.

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Bartomeu has overseen a string of political spats in recent months being played out in public, with Messi also involved.

Messi reacted angrily in January to Eric Abidal, the club’s technical secretary, suggesting the players were to blame for the sacking of Ernesto Valverde and last month, the Argentinian criticised the club’s handling of negotiations with the squad over pay cuts.

Those remaining swiftly addressed the resignations from the board. “The resignations of the members of the board of directors announced over the last few hours have come about due to a reorganisation of the board put forward by president Josep Maria Bartomeu and which will be completed in the next few days,” the statement added.

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