Spanish prosecutors appeal acquittal of ex-Barcelona president

Madrid (AFP) –


Spanish public prosecutors said Thursday they have appealed the acquittal of former FC Barcelona president Sandro Rosell of money laundering.

Spain's National Court, which handles major criminal cases, last month cleared Rosell, his wife, and four others of laundering close to 20 million euros ($23 million) since 2006 relating to television rights and sponsorship deals in Brazil due to a lack of evidence.

Rosell, 55, was arrested in May 2017 and was only given conditional release in February of this year, just after the start of his trial.

The Rosells were accused of hiding money illegally obtained by Ricardo Teixeira, the former head of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF).

The case centres on several contracts signed by Teixeira between 2006 and 2008 with a Saudi company based in the Cayman Islands for the television rights to 24 Brazil friendly matches.

A company owned by Rosell played the role of intermediary in the negotiation of these contracts and allegedly pocketed nearly 8.4 million euros.

Another company owned by Rosell collected $12 million for his participation in the negotiation of a sponsorship deal signed by sports apparel giant Nike, his former employer, and the CBF.

Prosecutors had initially called for the ex-Barca boss to be jailed for 11 years but during the trial they reduced their request to six years.

"An acquittal is only justified when there is a reasonable doubt and not any kind of doubt," prosecutors said in a statement announcing they had appealed the court ruling.

"The public prosecutors' office does not think it is logical to assume that screen companies were set up in tax havens, contracts were simulated, numerous transfers were made in Andorra to people close to them, and without cause, and then conclude that it is legal business," the statement added.

Rosell was Barcelona president from 2010 to 2014, when he resigned over murky transfer dealings that brought Brazilian striker Neymar to the club from Santos.