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'Someone had their hands in the till': Ex-Barcelona VP claims club was stung over social media service accused of attacking stars

'Someone had their hands in the till': Ex-Barcelona VP claims club was stung over social media service accused of attacking stars
Emili Rousaud fears that foul play could have led to Barcelona paying as much as ten times more than they should have for the social media management service that was accused of criticizing Lionel Messi and some of his teammates.

The Barcelona vice president tendered his resignation along with five fellow members of the beleaguered Spanish giants' board on Thursday, bluntly questioning a payment for social media services that he claimed has cost the club more than $1 million.

In a scandal that became known as Barcagate, the La Liga leaders threatened legal action in response to a podcast show talking about a 36-page dossier, the contents of which linked company I3 Ventures to social media attacks on Messi, long-serving defender Gerard Pique and former manager Pep Guardiola.

Xavi and Carles Puyol, who both spent more than 15 years at the Camp Nou, and rivals of under-fire club president Josep Maria Bartomeu were also said to have been targeted in what was alleged to have effectively been an inside hatchet job.

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Barcelona responded by issuing a statement insisting that the club had "no relationship" with any of the accounts under scrutiny, although mention was made of contracts to analyze "positive and negative messages about the organization itself."

As the club reels from a string of top-level recriminations and controversy around pay cuts during the coronavirus pandemic, Rousaud has revealed his "clear" suspicions that an internal audit was "circumvented", adding that he is unsure whether Bartomeu knew about the issue, which remained unaddressed.

"If the auditors tell us that the cost of this service is €100,000 ($107,000) and we paid one million, someone has put their hands in the till," he told RAC1.

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"I have no evidence and cannot say who. This contract had been broken into pieces of €200,000 ($214,000) so that it would not have to go through the control commission."

Bartomeu asked four of the departing directors to resign, but Rousaud dismissed his reasons for asking him to leave as "weak" and speculated that the embattled leader could be making unwise moves with the results of an external audit looming ahead of a scheduled presidential election in 2021.

"He says I have leaked criticism of players and some executives, which is not true," he explained.

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"The invitation came to us last week linked to the fact that the audit report was about to fall, and also because the proposed pay cut was not enough to cover the club's economic problems due to the pandemic.

"The president may already know the results [of an external audit], which has been one of the factors that made us leave.

"It's not about who is the bad guy, it's about values. Some of those that don't have the right values ​​are still inside the board and others are outside."

Barcelona's players announced last month that they were taking a 70 percent pay cut and making an extra contribution to ensure non-playing staff were paid during the Liga break enforced by the global health crisis.

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