KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has been cleared of corruption charges by the Spanish National Court after having been held for two years in detention.
Alexandre Rosell Feliu – his full formal name – had been charged with money laundering and criminal conspiracy concerning Brazilian football federation broadcasting rights and a sponsorship contract.
The accusations were found ‘not proven’ and therefore the case was thrown out. The 55-year-old had been imprisoned for a precise 643 days since having been arrested on May 23, 2017.
Rosell’s business partner Joan Besoli, wife Marta Pineda and three other accused – Josep Colomer, Pedro Andres Ramos and Shahe Ohannessian – were also all acquitted of all charges on similar grounds.
The six were accused of having laundered €19.9m in commissions secured by former Brazilian federation president Ricardo Teixeira for the broadcasting rights of 24 friendly matches of the Brazilian team and another €5m for the CBF’s sponsorship contract with Nike.
Rosell had insisted that he was innocent of all charges. A major blow for the prosecution was the refusal of the Brazilian football confederation to concede that it had suffered any economic damage through Rosell’s business dealings with Teixeira, its president from 1989 to 2012.
Teixeira lives in Brazil and refuses to leave the country for fear of arrest and extradition to the United States. The former world federation executive committee member is under indictment for his alleged role in the wide-ranging FIFAGate investigation.
In the closing stages of the trial, prosecutor Jose Javier Polo had effectively acknowledged the weakness in his case by reducing the originally-demanded jail sentence for Rosell from 11 years to six years.
Polo had also trimmed the jail term demand for Besoli to five years and left open possible sentences of between one year and 11 months and one year and a half for Pineda and the other three accused.
No-one, in modern Spain, had spent so long in prison awaiting trial on allegations of an economic crime. Only on February 27, after two days of the eventual trial, were the defendants granted conditional freedom while awaiting the outcome. Previously the appeal court had ruled that Rosell’s extensive financial resources had made him a flight risk.
Rosell was vice-president of Barcelona from 2003 until he succeeded Joan Laporta as president in 2010. He was forced to quit in 2014 after revelations about the illicit, tax-evading clauses he had negotiated in the club’s multi-million purchase of Brazilian superstar Neymar from Santos.