MADRID – Former Barcelona soccer club president Sandro Rosell arrived at Spain’s National Court on Monday to begin a trial in which he faces charges of laundering close to 20 million euros ($22 million) connected to the sale of television rights for Brazil matches and of illegally pocketing at least 6.5 million euros.
Rosell, who is in the dock alongside his wife, Marta Pineda and four other defendants, has denied breaking the law but has nevertheless been in custody awaiting trial since his arrest in May 2017.
The Prosecutor said in a statement that the defendants in the case all formed part of an organization led by Rosell that had “since at least 2006 formed a stable structure, reinforced by bonds of friendship and kinship, dedicated to large-scale money laundering.”
The prosecution argues Rosell headed a criminal organization that helped launder money linked to commissions from 24 international matches played by the Brazil squad when Ricardo Teixeira was in charge of the Brazilian Soccer Federation.
Rosell, who was president of Barcelona from 2010-14, has been charged with misappropriating funds derived from the sale of television rights for exhibition matches featuring the Brazil national team as well as from a sponsorship contract between Nike and Brazil’s squad.
Rosell was a former executive in Brazil for Nike, the multinational corporation from the United States that designs, develops, manufactures and markets footwear, apparel, equipment, accessories and services on a worldwide scale.
He is also charged with forming part of a criminal organization.
Spanish prosecutors are seeking an 11-year prison sentence for Rosell, plus a fine of nearly 60 million euros ($68 million).
Pineda faces seven years in prison and the other members of the alleged criminal gang are Andorran lawyer Joan Besoli who faces 10 years, Lebanese citizen Shahe Ohanneissian who faces seven 7 years, while alleged frontmen Pedro Andres Ramos and Josep Colomer face six to eight years in prison if found guilty.
Teixeira, who took over from Octavio Pinto Guimarães as head of Brazil’s federation, held the post from 1989 to 2012 and has been under investigation in Brazil, the US, Switzerland and Andorra for his alleged part in draining off 14.97 million euros in illegal commissions from broadcast rights of 24 Brazil friendlies and 5 million from a sponsorship deal with Nike.
The trial in the Madrid court is expected to last 10 days.
Rosell, alongside current Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu, is also under investigation in a separate case for alleged fraud in the signing of soccer star Neymar from Fondo DIS, which owned 40 percent of the player’s rights.