FC Barcelona are facing a bribery charge in the Spanish courts for their payments to former vice-president of the Spanish Technical Committee of Referees (CTA) José María Enríquez Negreira which totalled €7.7 million between 2001 and 2018.
El Mundo reveal that, in a report requested by the court, Spain's Civil Guard had concluded that referees under the watch of the CTA's former president Victoriano Sanchez Arminio and Negreira weren't always "unbiased". It was found that they ran an "irregular operation" while overseeing the committee, where decisions which "would not have always had impartial support" from a sporting perspective were made.
Judge Joaquin Aguirre Lopez reviewed the public prosecutor’s case and ruled that the matter would proceed to trial with the club former presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu, Sandro Rosell and Negreira’s son Javier Enríquez also being named as defendants.
As explained by Cadena SER, the parties involved have been notified by the judge presiding the case that the original crime of "continued corruption between individuals in the sports field" is merely that. Instead, the judge believes that the crime of bribery fits the case better, because Negreira "participated in the exercise of public functions" during the period of time that he received payments from Barca, which then ceased when he left his position.
The judge also said that he believed the case demonstrated the club obtained advantages from referees. It will be for a jury, nine people under Spanish law, to decide.
If found guilty the club could be suspended from La Liga and given the clubs precarious financial situation this would likely result in bankruptcy, the individual defendants could receive between three and six years in prison.
UEFA will conduct their own investigation into the allegations but this may not be undertaken until the Spanish court has issued its ruling. All of the defendants deny the allegations.