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'Barcagate' Explained & Why Bartomeu Was Arrested

Ex-FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu was arrested on Monday for his alleged involvement in the so-called "Barcagate" scandal. Here is why he and other high-profile figures were detained by police.

Click through the mini-gallery above to see four of the named arrestees over the "Barcagate" scandal.

The 58-year-old stepped down as president of the Catalan club in October last year, two months after a public row with Lionel Messi, Barcelona's record goalscorer and captain.

Bartomeu, among several others, was detained by police on Monday for his alleged role in the controversial scandal that surrounded the Spanish giants dubbed "Barcagate", but what is it that actually happened and how has it led to these arrests?

Early in 2020, reports in Spain suggested that the former president had hired a social media by the name of I3 Ventures to promote himself and his board amid waves of criticism from Barcelona fans around the world, and smear the names of some of the club's most important figures.

It was alleged that Messi, Gerard Pique and other senior players were targeted by several social media companies, all reportedly linked to I3 Ventures owner Carlos Ibanez, who used different Facebook accounts to slander certain key club figures, including even Xavi Hernandez and Pep Guardiola.

Marca reported that Barcelona, under Bartomeu's presidency, had employed I3 Ventures perhaps as early as 2017, paying them 1 million (R18 million) a year for their services. It is further claimed that the Blaugrana never paid more than 200 000 (R3.6 million) per invoice, ensuring no approval from the entire board was needed.

After the initial story was reported last year, Barca denied hiring I3 Ventures to enhance Bartomeu's reputation and attack high-profile club icons in a statement that was released just a month after Messi's public row with former sporting director Eric Abidal.

It is now said that the arrested former directors and Bartomeu are being investigated for illegal administration, individual cases of corruption and money laundering, according to Cadena SER radio station.

Barca released a statement in the wake of the news that Bartomeu and some of his former colleagues had been arrested, saying the club will co-operate with authorities following the raiding of its offices on Monday morning.

Throughout his tenure as president, Bartomeu was criticised for his running of the club, especially with regards to the many expensive signings who came in under his reign and failed to make an immediate impact on the field.

The Spaniard was first sworn in as president in 2014, after Sandro Rosell stepped down following his involvement in the alleged disproportion of funds over the signing of Neymar from Santos in 2013. Rosell was jailed in 2017 and was released in 2019.

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Presidential candidate Joan Laporta reacted to the news on Monday in a video released on social media, saying: "Given today's events and the searching of the club's offices and the detainment of Barcelona's ex-president and club executives, from the candidature Estimem El Barca, we want to say that we have maximum respect for the police's actions and also for the presumption of innocence.

"We deeply regret what's happening because it hugely damages the club's image and reputation."

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