The European Football Association (UEFA) announced today that it has opened a formal investigation with regard to the Spanish club Barcelona regarding a possible violation of the legal framework of the body overseeing European football through payments made by the club to a company owned by a senior refereeing official. A Barcelona court agreed last week to hear the case after prosecutors filed a complaint over what they alleged were payments of 7.3 million euros ($7.95 million) made to companies owned by Jose Maria Enriquez Negrera from 2001 to 2018. Negrera was vice-chairman of the referees’ committee. In the Spanish Football Federation from 1993 to 2018 under then-president Victoriano Sánchez Armeno. UEFA said in its statement: "In accordance with Article 31 (Clause 4) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, today the UEFA Ethics and Disciplinary Inspectors were appointed to carry out an investigation regarding a possible breach of the UEFA legal framework by FC Barcelona in the so-called "Nigerian case". Last Tuesday, Spanish Attorney General Alvaro Garcia Ortiz requested that the case be transferred to the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office due to the serious nature of the allegations. In a statement last month, FC Barcelona denied any wrongdoing, saying it had simply paid an outside consultant who provided it with technical reports on professional arbitration, describing it as a common practice among professional football clubs. The club said that it would cooperate fully with the investigation, stressing that they did not buy the debt of any referee and did not try to influence the decisions of any referee.
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