The investigating judge in the Negreira case, Joaquín Aguirre, has suffered a new setback. The Barcelona Court has revoked the decision to charge FC Barcelona and the rest of those investigated for the crime of bribery by ruling out that Enríquez Negreira can be considered a public official. This decision opens the door to exonerating the president of the club, Joan Laporta, who had been charged only with bribery whose statute of limitations was longer. 

The order issued by section 21 of the Barcelona Court agrees with the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, Barça and the rest of those investigated. Although Laporta is not formally cleared of charges, once the crime of bribery falls, his accusation for this crime will also be dismissed. To do this, a new resolution will have to be issued. The case will continue to be investigated for the crimes that were pointed out in the first complaint by the Prosecutor’s Office and that marked the start of the investigation. They are the crimes of unfair administration, which seeks to see if a manager put his hand in the box, or sports corruption, which investigates whether the competition was altered by paying the then vice president of the Technical Committee of Referees (CTA).

The argument adopted by the Court is the same one that those affected had already warned: that Enríquez Negreira cannot be considered a public official and therefore the cause of this crime cannot be investigated. Judge Aguirre made a legal pirouette to be able to investigate for the sake of investigating for this crime foreseen only for public officials. He considered that Negreira could be considered a public employee because the Spanish Football Federation is a private entity but with a public function. “The Spanish Football Federation has the status of a public-legal entity for criminal purposes and its directors, including those who are part of technical commissions, must be considered public officials for criminal purposes,” he argued. 

Never before in history had a Federation official been accused of bribery since no one had been considered a public official, however, Judge Aguirre did it. Now, the Court responds that Negreira cannot be considered as such since “he was not appointed by a competent authority in the exercise of command but neither can his functions as a position in the Technical Committee of Referees be classified as being of general interest”, conditions these exercised by public officials. 

All of those investigated, Negreira father and son, former presidents Bartomeu, Rosell and former club executives, Òscar Grau and Albert Soler, had filed an appeal against the accusation of bribery, which also implied higher prison sentences, in the event of conviction, and opened the door in case of trial of facing a popular jury. The Prosecutor’s Office itself had already reported against the inclusion of this crime and only Real Madrid, which is represented in the case as a victim, alleged that “the criminal concept of a public official had a place” and that it was fully in accordance with the law as “The investigation has advanced and has revealed the systemic corruption of the arbitration system.”

The Barça club has shown “its satisfaction” with the meaning of the resolution handed down by the Court. “We maintain our conviction that through Justice we can definitively clarify the facts that are the subject of the complaint and prove the absolute innocence” of the Catalan entity, they said in a statement.