KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Sandro Rosell, former president of Barcelona with close ties to both Brazil and Qatar, has been arrested by Spanish police in an operation launched in co-operation with the United States Justice Department.
Local media in Spain reported that the arrest of Rosell, his wife Marta Pineda and three other people, over money-laundering allegations, was linked to information obtained by the FIFAGate corruption investigation.
Earlier this week it was reported that Ricardo Teixeira, ex-president of the CBF and former member of the FIFA executive committee, was in negotiations with the US DoJ. Teixeira is a long-time friend and business associate of Rosell.
The police action included raids on property and offices in not only Barcelona but also in Girona, Lleida and Andorra.
It is not understood to be connected with the ongoing tax evasion court cases involving Rosell’s signing, during his Barcelona presidency, of Brazilian superstar Neymar. Accusations of financial irregularities over the transfer in 2013 led to Rosell quitting as Barcelona president a year later.
Prosecutor sources have indicated that Rosell (full name Alexandre Rosell Feliu) and his wife are alleged to have involving with a €15m money-laundering operation concerning the sale of television rights to friendly matches undertaken by the Brazilian national team.
The so-called Operacion Rimet is being led by the Prosecutor’s Office of the National Court and the Central Court of Instruction No3 and follows a year-long investigation by the national police force’s economic and fiscal crime unit (UDEF) in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Information provided by the FBI prompted the original UDEF investigation into bank transactions in Spain which led them on to Rosell’s complex financial dealings.
Subsequently Judge Carmen Lamela froze €10m in bank deposits and more than 50 properties worth more than €25m. Most of these assets were allegedly owned by Rosell and his wife through a network of third-party companies.
One of the other individuals arrested was reportedly Lebanese businessman Shahe Ohannessian, a friend of Rosell. Before Rosell became Barcelona president in 2010 he apparently sold Ohannessian his main company, Bonus Sports Marketing SL, to avoid conflict of interest concerns.
Rosell has never been named by the US DoJ in connection with the FIFAGate case. However New York prosecutors are known to have investigated the $160m sportswear sponsorship deal which Rosell, then working for Nike, negotiated with Teixeira in 1996.
During his presidency of Barcelona, Rosell negotiated the controversial €150m deal with Qatar Sports Investments which led to Qatar Foundation (and then Qatar Airways) becoming the club’s first commercial shirt sponsor.