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Spanish police search referee headquarters in Barça corruption probe

Spanish police search referee headquarters in Barça corruption probe
Prosecutors allege Barça paid a total of more than €7.3 million to Negreira. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

Police in Spain on Thursday searched the headquarters of the country's football referee committee as part of a probe into payments made by Liga giants Barcelona to a firm owned by a former official of the body.

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Prosecutors suspect the club paid millions of euros to the company of Jose María Enríquez Negreira, the former vice-president of Spanish football's refereeing committee, between 2001 and 2018, to try to influence referee decisions.

The Barcelona court investigating the case on Thursday ordered the search of the headquarters "as part of the investigation into the suspect payments made by the Catalan club" to Negreira, the regional court oversight body said in a statement.

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The Guardia Civil police force, which was carrying out the search of the committee located in the headquarters of Spain's football federation in Las Rozas on the outskirts of Madrid, did not expect to make any arrests as part of the operation, a spokesman said.

Spanish prosecutors in March charged Barcelona as well as two of the club's former presidents, Josep María Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell, and Negreira and his son, Javier Enriquex Negreira, with corruption over the affair.

They allege Barça paid a total of more than €7.3 million to Negreira, former vice president of the refereeing committee of the Spanish football federation between 1994 and 2018.

The investigation began after Spain's tax authorities identified irregularities in tax payments made between 2016 and 2018 by the company Dasnil 95 -- owned by Negreira.

Dasnil 95 reportedly received payments from Barcelona between those years.

Barcelona says Dasnil 95 was paid to advise the club on refereeing matters but the prosecutors suspect the money could have been used to corrupt game officials.

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