UEFA, the governing body of football in Europe, has opened an investigation into FC Barcelona over a growing scandal involving alleged multi-million-euro payments made by the Spanish club to a refereeing official. 

Ethics and disciplinary inspectors will be probing payments that were supposedly made between 2001 and 2018 totalling more than €8 million, and that went to the then-vice president of the Technical Arbitral Committee (CTA), Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira. 

The club is suspected of making the payments in order to benefit from favourable referee’s decisions on the pitch. Barcelona, however, denies any wrongdoing and has claimed instead that the payments were made to Negreira’s company, Dasnil 95, in exchange for video reports about referees ‘with the aim of complementing the information required by the coaching staff’.

Negreira, the club itself, and its presidents at the time of the payments, Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell, have all been put under investigation by the Spanish courts since the story broke in the Spanish press several weeks ago. 

UEFA will be investigating whether or not the club violated its legal framework, but has not given any further information so far, promising to do so ‘in due course’ according to Spanish news agency Europa Press.

The public prosecutor is investigating possible offences of corruption, fraudulent administration and document fraud. 

Javier Tebas, who is the CEO of Spain’s top-flight league La Liga, has called on the current president of Barcelona, Joan Laporta, to quit if he cannot account for the payments. 

Meanwhile, the club’s arch-rival, Real Madrid, has stated that it will join the private prosecution in the trial ‘in defence of its legitimate rights’.

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