José María Enríquez Negreira, former number two The Spanish referee, active for almost two decades, remained silent this Tuesday about the millions in payments he received from FC Barcelona. Negreira, who was under investigation for pocketing €7.3 million from the Barça club, has exercised his right not to comment. The decision is logical considering that his defense claims that he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and is unfit to face criminal proceedings. The predictable silence of the former head of the Technical Arbitration Committee (CTA) means that the investigation remains at its standpoint without, for the time being, clarifying the real reason for payments that, according to the investigation, constitute a crime of corruption in sport.

The judge is investigating Negreira case, Joaquín Aguirre, stated that Negreira was under investigation after receiving a report from forensic experts who examined him to determine whether he was suffering symptoms of dementia. The experts came to the conclusion that the 78-year-old former referee suffered from a cognitive impairment, but was not incapable of testifying or committing a crime. On the advice of his lawyer Daniel Pérez-Esqué, the defendant exercised his right not to testify and, with great anticipation, briefly appeared before the Barcelona judicial authority.

Negreira’s only explanation of Barça’s payments was given to tax authority inspectors investigating 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, was intended for consulting work that never materialized. In October 2021, three years after the payments ended, he appeared before the Ministry of Finance and gave his answer to a question about what services he had provided to the company. Negreira said it was “technical advice” related to the club’s arbitration procedures. And he added: “What FC Barcelona wanted was to ensure that no decisions were made against the club, that everything was neutral.”

He Negreira case investigates corruption crimes in sports, unfair administration, falsification of business documents and money laundering. In addition to Negreira and his son, former Barça presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu are still under investigation, but also current president Joan Laporta for payments relating to his first term in office (2003-2010). The suspicion of investigators, which is currently not confirmed 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 get.

Negreira’s statement is another step in an investigation that the judge opened in fall 2023. Aguirre ordered the search of the headquarters of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) on suspicion that he did not facilitate all the documentation and added a new crime to the case: bribery. According to the judge’s criteria, rejected by the prosecutor’s office, Negreira’s status is comparable to that of a civil servant, so the crime of bribery can be attributed to the people under investigation. The judge made another decision to advance the investigation: through the Civil Guard, he took statements from 21 arbitrators and former arbitrators to clarify whether they knew the origin of the payments. None of them could give a definitive answer, but all agreed that the payments could have no impact on their work or that of their colleagues and that they could therefore have no impact on the results of the league or the Copa del Rey. King.

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