La Liga president Javier Tebas has said his organisation cannot open an investigation into their €1.4million (£1.2m) payment to a company belonging to then-referees committee vice president Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira as the case is time-barred.

Barcelona made the payments between 2016 and 2018 which means they happened too long ago for La Liga to investigate them.

Tebas has said he would have opened an investigation if he knew about the payments back in 2019 but now must leave it in the hands of Barcelona prosecutor’s office.

Then-Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu told Spanish outlet Cadena SER, who initially reported the payments, that they were legitimately made then ended due to cutting costs. He also claimed the payments had existed as early as 2003.

Former Barcelona president Joan Gaspart (2000-2003) denied knowing of any payments, while Joan Laporta, both former (2003-2010) and current (2021-) president of the club, declined to comment.

Tebas, speaking on Friday to clarify reports about the case, said: “The case is time-barred in sports law, but not in criminal law. No sporting body can seek a sanction, because it is time-barred. I could not even open an investigation.

“The invoice, the amounts, the burofax… There are indications that need to be investigated in the criminal sphere.

“In LaLiga, after studying the case, we have considered that if we have to file a criminal complaint we would hinder the investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. It would delay everything. I say this also as a lawyer. Everything indicates that there are indications, not that there is proof or a crime. Indications that should be investigated. We don’t want to hinder the investigation, which will be finished in a few months.

“If the case had not been time-barred, a disciplinary case would obviously have been opened to investigate the situation.

“At the criminal level, there may be sporting consequences. But it is a very open issue in the criminal code. Our way cannot continue, because the statute of limitations has expired, but the criminal investigation continues. And it remains to be seen what the public prosecutor’s office considers. If they see a crime, they will file a complaint, and if they don’t, then no. Let’s wait and see. Let’s not speculate. Let’s not create uncertainty”

Tebas said clubs seeking the advice of officials is common practice but they have to be former referees unlike Negreira, who could still influence the game.

He added: “Clubs have referees to advise, but they are not active. They are former referees. It is a conflict of interest that cannot be allowed. The difference is that Negreira is active.”

Tebas also said he didn’t see anything in Barcelona’s games during that period but there could have been unseen influence such as when Juventus were caught up in a match-fixing scandal in 2006 after influencing the selection of referees.

“At that time, I didn’t see any strange matches,” explained Tebas. “But in the match-fixing games I have taken to court, I didn’t see anything strange either. With Juventus, it wasn’t because the referees decided actions in the matches, but in their choice and appointment. But the attempt is already a crime, there is no need to go to the act.”

(Photo: Getty Images)


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