MADRID — Spanish police investigators arrested the former president of F.C. Barcelona, Sandro Rosell, on Tuesday as part of an inquiry into money laundering and kickbacks said to have been paid for the television rights for matches involving Brazil’s national soccer team.
The police announced that they had detained five people and raided nine homes and offices, in Barcelona and two other Catalan cities — Lleida and Girona — as well as in Andorra, a principality wedged between France and Spain.
F.C. Barcelona said it would not comment on the arrests. The police did not disclose the identity of those arrested but an official confirmed that Rosell was among them.
Rosell’s arrest was ordered by a Barcelona judge, but the investigation, under the code name Rimet, is part of an international operation against organized crime in international soccer. Jules Rimet was a long-serving president of FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, who helped create the World Cup competition in 1930.
Rosell resigned as president of Barcelona in 2014 after a court accepted a case that accused him of misappropriation of funds as part of the transfer of Neymar, the team’s star Brazilian forward. In the summer of 2013, Neymar joined Barcelona officially for 57 million euros (about $64 million) from Santos, a Brazilian club, a signing that was seen at the time as a coup for the club and Rosell.
But Barcelona eventually agreed to settle a tax fraud case and pay a fine to the Spanish tax authorities because it had not disclosed a significant part of the transfer sum. Neymar is facing a fraud trial over the terms of his transfer.
Rosell has strong ties to Brazilian soccer, dating to the late 1990s when he worked for Nike in Latin America. As a marketing director, Rosell oversaw the signing in 1996 of Nike’s landmark sponsorship deal with Brazil’s national team, an agreement worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
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