Ex-Barcelona President Arrested as FIFA Corruption Case Hits Club Soccer

So far, the FIFA corruption case has largely left the club soccer world untouched, but a series of raids this morning may hint that is coming to an end.

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May 23 2017, 4:47pm

Original images via Flickr and Wikimedia Commons/VICE Sports illustration

Early Tuesday morning, Spanish police arrested former Barcelona club president Sandro Rosell as part of a wide-ranging money laundering investigation that, according to El Confidencial, is rooted in the FBI's FIFA investigation.

Like most money laundering cases, the details are complicated because the whole purpose is to, you know, hide the money. But the upshot is that Rosell is accused of doing what pretty much everyone else in the FIFA corruption case did. He allegedly took bribes through his sports marketing company to sell rights for Brazilian National Team games. When Rosell became president of Barcelona in 2010, he "sold" the marketing company, Bonus Sports Marketing, to Shahe Ohannessian, his friend. But, according to El Confidencial, this was simply a ruse to avoid conflict of interest accusations. Rosell maintained control of the marketing company during his entire time with Barcelona, which included the club's purchase of Neymar, a shady deal for which the club, Rosell, and Neymar are all under investigation for tax dodging and corruption.

The president of the Brazilian soccer federation from 1989 to 2012, Ricardo Teixeira, was indicted in the FIFA case and is accused of accepting $15 million in bribes from Nike as part of a landmark 1996 sports marketing deal. In 1998, Rosell moved to Rio de Janeiro to head Nike's Latin America division where he managed the Brazil contract and worked closely with Teixeira.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, French police are investigating tax fraud linked to three Argentine players. The police raided Paris Saint-Germain's offices and the homes of Angel Di Maria, Javier Pastore, and Emiliano Sala. Bloomberg is reporting that the club is suspected of aiding the players in avoiding tax payments. According to the AP, this investigation stemmed from documents released by Football Leaks. The three Argentines join an esteemed list of European soccer stars recently accused of tax fraud: Samuel Eto'o, Lionel Messi, the aforementioned Neymar, Javier Mascherano, Alexis Sanchez, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Mesut Ozil.

But it's Neymar's case in particular, with its deep overlap with Rosell's alleged money laundering, that demonstrates how club soccer is in many ways just as shady as the international game. It has many of the same primary actors and, now that transfer fees can be a nine-figure affair when all is said and done, there is plenty of margin for malfeasance. International soccer is a small world. It may only be a matter of time until the club game has its own bed sheet raid.