May 27, 2019
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Ex-Barcelona president Rosell absolved as money laundering case collapses

 Former president of FC Barcelona Sandro Rosell waves to photographers as he arrives at the National Court in Madrid, Spain, July 22, 2014 (reissued Apr. 24, 2019). EPA/EMILIO NARANJO

Former president of FC Barcelona Sandro Rosell waves to photographers as he arrives at the National Court in Madrid, Spain, July 22, 2014 (reissued Apr. 24, 2019). EPA/EMILIO NARANJO

Madrid, Apr 24 (efe-epa).- Spain’s National Court has Wednesday cleared the former Barcelona soccer club president Sandro Rosell of money laundering after throwing out the case against him.

Rosell, who had spent 643 days in pretrial detention on suspicion of having been involved in laundering close to 20 million euros ($22 million) and of illegally pocketing at least 6.5 million euros, had already been released without bail on Feb. 27.

The court also acquitted another five people who had been accused of participating in the laundering of fees linked to the audiovisual rights of 24 matches of the Brazilian national soccer team and of sums linked to contracts with Nike.

Among those acquitted was the lawyer Joan Besolí from Andorra, who like Rosell had spent 22 months in preventive detention, Rosell’s wife, Marta Pineda, Shahe Ohanneissian, a Lebanese citizen and friend of Rosell, and also Pedro Andrés Ramos and Josep Colomer.

In delivering his sentence, judge Ángel Hurtado said that after analyzing the evidence in the trial, the prosecution "has not been able to make the accusations stand up and, therefore, clear up the reasonable doubt that had arisen.”

The prosecutor had already reduced the request for punishment from 11 to six years in prison for Rosell.

Rosell was accused of misappropriating funds linked to the sale of television rights of Brazil matches and arranging friendly matches featuring the Brazilian international squad as well as from a sponsorship contract between Nike and Brazil. He was also charged with leading a criminal organization.

The prosecution had initially asked that Rosell be sentenced to an 11-year prison sentence, plus the payment of a fine of nearly 60 million euros ($68 million) after arguing that the defendants had been part of a criminal organization led by the former club president that had, "since at least 2006, formed a stable structure, reinforced by bonds of friendship and kinship, dedicated to large-scale money laundering."

The gang was accused of laundering money linked to commissions from 24 international matches played by the Brazil squad when Ricardo Teixeira was in charge of the Brazilian Soccer Federation, the prosecution said.

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