Negreira maintains silence before the judge about FC Barcelona payments | Sports

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José María Enríquez Negreira, the former number two of Spanish referees for almost two decades, has maintained his silence this Tuesday regarding the million-dollar payments he received from FC Barcelona. Negreira, who was cited as being investigated for having collected 7.3 million euros from the Barça club, has availed himself of his right not to declare. The decision is logical if one takes into account that his defense alleges that he suffers from Alzheimer’s and that he is not in a position to face the criminal process. The foreseeable silence of the former leader of the Technical Arbitration Committee (CTA) leaves the investigation at the point where it was, without it being possible to determine for now the real reason for payments that, according to the investigation, constitute a crime of corruption in the sport.

The judge investigating the Negreira case, Joaquín Aguirre, cited Negreira as under investigation after receiving a report from the forensic experts who examined him to determine if he suffered symptoms of dementia. The experts came to the conclusion that the 78-year-old former referee suffers from cognitive impairment but is not incapable of testifying or facing criminal proceedings. Advised by his lawyer, Daniel Pérez-Esqué, the accused has taken advantage of his right not to testify in a brief appearance at the City of Justice in Barcelona surrounded by enormous expectation.

Negreira’s only explanation about Barça’s payments was given to the Tax Agency inspectors who investigated his companies and those of his son, Javier Enríquez. For 17 years, coinciding with his time as vice president of the CTA, Negreira received 7.3 million that, according to the club, were for advisory work that has never materialized. In October 2021, three years after the payments ended, he appeared before the Treasury and, asked about the services he provided to the entity, he gave his answer. Negreira said that it was “technical advice” related to the club’s arbitrations. And he added: “What FC Barcelona wanted was to make sure that no decisions were made against the club, that everything was neutral.”

He Negreira case investigates crimes of corruption in sports, unfair administration, falsification of commercial documents and money laundering. In addition to Negreira and his son, former Barça presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu remain under investigation, but also the current president, Joan Laporta, for payments that affect his first term (2003-2010). The investigators’ suspicion, not corroborated at the moment by documentary sources or witnesses, is that the money received by Negreira could have been used to buy the will of the referees and benefit the Barça club in state competitions.

Negreira’s statement is one more step in an investigation to which the judge gave impetus in the fall of 2023. Aguirre ordered the search of the headquarters of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) due to the suspicion that he was not being facilitating all the documentation and included a new crime in the case: bribery. According to the judge’s criteria, which the Prosecutor’s Office opposes, Negreira’s status is comparable to that of a public official, so the crime of bribery can be attributed to those investigated. The judge made another decision to try to advance the investigation: through the Civil Guard, he took statements from 21 referees and former referees to clarify if they knew the origin of the payments. None of them could give a definitive answer, but they all agreed that the payments could not in any way influence their work or that of their colleagues and that, therefore, they could not influence the results of the League or the Copa del Rey. King.

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