The Prosecutor’s Office has asked the judge to summon to testify as witnesses in the Negreira case to former FC Barcelona coaches Luis Enrique Martínez and Ernesto Valverde. According to what judicial sources have explained to EL PAÍS, the complaint includes the two technicians in the list of witnesses to explain if, during their time in charge of the first team, they learned of the existence of alleged reports on the behavior of the referees on the field of game.
Barça paid 7.3 million to José María Enríquez Negreira between 2001 and 2018, a stage in which the former referee was vice president of the Technical Arbitration Committee (CTA). In the complaint filed on Friday, the Prosecutor’s Office concludes that the club’s intention was to fix the matches. The payments to Negreira were intended for him to influence the decisions of the referees so that Barcelona would be “favoured” in the competition. The payments are not due to any service actually provided, according to this hypothesis, which the judicial instruction will put to the test. In his statement before the Treasury during a tax inspection that was the origin of the case, the former arbitration leader stated that Barça paid him for “verbal advice” to ensure that he received “neutral” arbitrations, which did not harm him.
The public explanations that those responsible for the club at different stages have given to date are that either they were unaware of the existence of the payments to Negreira, or that they corresponded to written reports on the profile of the referees. The Prosecutor’s Office maintains that these explanations are not sustained and that, in any case, they only explain a part of reality. Apart from the 7.3 million euros to the former referee, Barça also paid – through a company owned by a deceased former manager – a total of 450,120 euros to Soccercam, the company of Negreira’s son, the coach Javier Enriquez. Of that amount, more than 153,034 euros went to the pockets of the former manager, Josep Contreras, and correspond to “his commission from him as an intermediary.”
The disbursements to Javier Enríquez occurred between 2016 and 2018, during the period of Josep Maria Bartomeu as president of the club. The Prosecutor’s Office considers that Bartomeu and two denounced executives “knew the framework” and “avoided at all costs that” the son of the former referee “was hired directly by FC Barcelona so as not to associate the last name with the club.” Unlike what happens with the verbal advice of the father, the Soccercam works are accredited: every week, the coach he provided the club with a written report and a DVD analyzing the referees’ behavior on the pitch as a way of helping the coaching staff prepare for matches.
The objective of the Prosecutor’s Office in requesting that the coaches be summoned to testify is precisely to clarify to what extent these reports were useful. Asked about these reports, Valverde – who currently trains Athletic Bilbao – assured that he was unaware of them. “In Barcelona I didn’t even know they existed. He had no idea about all this ”. Valverde held the Barça bench between 2017 and 2020 and succeeded Luis Enrique (2014-2017) who left the Spanish team after the Qatar World Cup and has not publicly commented on the case.
The complaint filed by the Prosecutor’s Office is pending admission by the head of the Barcelona investigating court number 1, Joaquín Aguirre, who must also decide whether to admit the complaint by a VAR referee against Negreira and his son. If the judge agrees to his statement, both Luis Enrique and Valverde must testify as witnesses, a condition that implies the obligation to tell the truth and to respond to all parties that make complaints against them.
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