Bartomeu spends night in jail, provisionally free

Former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu was provisionally freed on Tuesday after appearing before a judge following a night in jail while being investigated for possible irregularities during his administration.

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Court officials said Bartomeu and his former adviser at the Spanish club, Jaume Masferrer, used their right not to make any comments.

Bartomeu, Masferrer and two other club officials were arrested on Monday after Catalan police raided Barcelona’s headquarters in a search and seizure operation related to last year’s “Barcagate.” In that case, the club was accused of launching a smear campaign against current and former players who were critical of then-president Bartomeu and others.

The arrests came less than a week before the club holds presidential elections, and added to the turmoil surrounding the team recently.

Barcelona, who have also struggled on the field and could lose Lionel Messi after his contract ends this season, have been led by a caretaker board since Bartomeu and his board of directors resigned in October while facing a no-confidence vote.

The Spanish powerhouse have a debt of more than €1.1 billion ($1.3bn), in large part because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Authorities said the arrests were made as they investigate “alleged crimes related to property and socio-economic order.”