What penalties can befall Barça and Bartomeu for the ‘Negreira Case’?

According to the newspaper The country, the Prosecutor’s Office will denounce Barcelona and Bartomeu for payments to Negreira for an alleged crime of corruption in business on a continuous basis and unfair administration, which could aggravate the final consequences for the culé entity. The first crime that of corruption in business, is included in article 286 bis of the Penal Code: “Punishes anyone who offers, promises or grants benefits or advantages without justifying people related to a company or society so that it favors him or a third party over others in business relationships”.

Specifically, in article 286 bis 3, it defines it in sports competitions: “Punishes the facts when the purpose pursued with these conducts is to deliberately and fraudulently predetermine or alter the result of a professional sports competition. In this case, what is punished are bribes that, for this purpose, are carried out by the following active subjects: members or collaborators of sports entities, athletes, referees or judges”.

If the judge finally manages to prove that FC Barcelona is guilty of business corruption, the Catalan team could receive, only, a heavy economic fine, since they cannot be sanctioned with jail terms. “In the cases provided for in this Code, legal persons will be criminally responsible: for crimes committed in their name or on behalf of them, and for their direct or indirect benefit, by their legal representatives or by those acting individually or as members of an organ of the legal person, are authorized to make decisions on behalf of the legal person or have organizational and control powers within it”, the article states. Already in 2016, Barça was convicted as a legal entity for tax crimes in the signing of Neymar and ended up agreeing to pay a fine of 5.5 million euros.

In no case would the dissolution or suspension of the club’s activity be applied, so it could continue to compete in national competitions, since the sporting relegation cannot be contemplated as the prescribed offense is. But internationally the matter is different. UEFA, for the moment, remains on the sidelines until there is no final resolution, but if Barça finally comes out guilty, both the European body and FIFA could sanction the culé team by leaving it without playing European and international competitions in the years they stipulate appropriate. FIFA could even enter ‘ex officio’ and punish Barcelona. This has the capacity to impose category demotions and also the loss of points.

bartomeu He is the only president of Barça who has been denounced, since the Penal Code does not contemplate entering payments for years prior to 2010, so despite being the president who ended these payments, which could reduce the sentence from four months to two years in jail, is the only one who will be denounced. The previous ones, Núñez, Gaspart and Laporta, are not in this complaint. The former president can be sentenced to between six months and four years in prison (the sentence could be reduced from four months to two years in prison for being the president who cut payments), and could also receive a financial fine.

The second crime, that of unfair administration, which would also affect Bartomeu, is specified in article 252 of the Penal Code and establishes that they will be committed by those “having powers to administer another’s assets, emanating from the law, entrusted by the authority or assumed through a legal transaction, violate them by exceeding the exercise of the same and, in this way, cause damage to the managed assets. This would have occurred if the payment to Negreira was for non-existent services. The penalties, in this case, go up to three years in prison for those who exceed their duties due to the administration of other people’s assets and for the cause of a “patrimonial damage” for the members of the Barcelona club.

The opinion of an expert

“First of all, we would have to differentiate depending on whether we are faced with the active modality of the crime of corruption in business, which corresponds to the actions of promising, offering or granting an unjustified benefit or advantage. This attitude would presumably be predicable of the attitude of Mr. Enrique Negreira, since he is precisely accused of having made this type of offer or even favors of an arbitration nature. And on the other hand, there would be the passive modality of the crime and that would penalize, where appropriate, managers, administrators, employees… And since we are talking about the sports sphere, also those athletes, judges, referees, etc. That they have accepted such unjustified benefits or advantages and that, in addition, and this must be proven, their purpose is to fraudulently predetermine or alter the result of a test, meeting or sports competition. The penalty in all cases is the same. They are punishable by prison sentences of six months to four years, special disqualification from the exercise of the activity for a period of one to six years, and a fine equivalent to three times the benefit or advantage in the event that this could have been economically valuable. But it is a continuous crime, and this, in accordance with the criminal code, is more reproachful in the criminal sphere and, therefore, greater sanction, and the aforementioned penalties should be applied but in their upper half. That is to say, imprisonment from nine months to six years, and disqualification from three to nine years for the exercise of any position or activity in the sports field.

Jorge Vaquero, Legal Director of V Sports Legal Firm

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