FC Barcelona 'Bribery' Controversy: Spanish Police Raid Spanish Football Federation Offices

Barcelona FC were formally accused of suspected bribery over £6m payments to ex-referees chief

Spanish Football Club Barcelona FC

Spanish police raided the offices of the country's football federation on Thursday as part of an investigation into the payment of millions of dollars over several years by Barcelona to a former vice president of Spain's refereeing committee. (More Football News)

The Guardia Civil confirmed to The Associated Press that its police had searched the offices of the refereeing committee at federation headquarters near Madrid. Police said they had not made any arrests and were acting on the orders of Judge Joaquin Aguirre, who is investigating the case for a court in Barcelona.

In March, state prosecutors formally accused Barcelona of corruption in sports, fraudulent management, and falsification of mercantile documentation. Prosecutors said the club paid José María Enríquez Negreira, a former referee who was a part of the federation's refereeing committee from 1994-2018, 7.3 million euros (USD 7.7 million) from 2001-18.

Also Thursday, Aguirre formally added a new accusation to the probe, saying there are indications that bribery occurred between Barcelona and Negreira. The accusation of bribery replaces the previous accusation of corruption in sports.

The payments were initially investigated as part of a tax probe into a company run by Negreira.

Barcelona has denied any wrongdoing or conflict of interest, saying it paid for technical reports on referees, but never tried to influence their decisions in games.

The accusations are against Barcelona, Negreira, former Barcelona presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, and former Barcelona executives Óscar Grau and Albert Soler.

Getting reports on referees is common practice in Spain and clubs can pay other companies or have them prepared internally, as Barcelona does now. But, paying large amounts of money to a person involved in the running of Spain's referees for reports is not a normal practice.

The raids come after the federation has been rocked by a sexism scandal after its former president kissed a player on the lips without her consent during the FIFA Women's World Cup awards ceremony last month.

In Spain, an investigative judge carries out the initial investigation into a possible crime to determine if it should go to trial, which a different judge then oversees.