Barcelona ordered to repay €47m by Spanish court over invalid land sale
A Spanish court has ruled that Barcelona have to pay €47 million over a land deal from 2005 which has been deemed invalid, in what is the latest case to pit the current Blaugrana board against the previous regime lead by Joan Laporta.
Barca sold the 10,000 hectare suburban site at Can Rigalt for €28.6m a decade ago, with the understanding that it could be developed for residential and commercial use. However, the purchasers Inmobiliaria Mar were unable to go through with the project.
A court has annulled that deal and ruled that Barca must repay the purchase price, along with legal costs and interest, in a judgment which ruled that the club had not fulfilled all the requirements agreed at the time.
It is not yet clear whether the requirement to pay €47m will affect Barcelona's transfer budget during the current transfer window.
The news was confirmed by the Camp Nou outfit, who explained in a statement that the proceeds of the sale were used by the then club president Laporta to balance that year's accounts.
"The Board of Directors, meeting today in an ordinary session at the club offices, was notified of the arbitration decision made recently in a case surrounding land located in Can Rigalt, a 25-hectare area north of l'Hospitalet, a suburb of Barcelona," the statement said. "The ruling calls for a reversal of the operation carried out in 2005 and that 10,000 square meters of land there shall be recovered from "Inmobiliaria Mar," to which the club had previously sold it.
"The initial transaction generated a €28.6m profit for the club and allowed it to close out the fiscal year with a profit of €35.2m before taxes. The amount set by the decision is €47m, equal to the €35.4m the club charged 11 years ago, plus legal costs and interest. The club was forced to recover the land because the courts involved decided the requirements agreed upon in the contract from 2005 had not been met."
In 2014, the current Blaugrana board tried to personally sue Laporta and other members of the previous regime for alleged financial mismanagement.
However, more recently the current board accepted that the club could be found guilty as an institution and pay a €5.5m fine for the structuring of the 2013 signing of Neymar, after current chief Josep Maria Bartomeu and predecessor Sandro Rosell were cleared of any personal responsibility.
Asked by reporters whether the club might look to recover the money that must now be repaid to Inmobiliaria Mar, spokesperson Josep Vives did not mention any names but said those who signed the contract in 2005 should be held responsible.
"It's not the time to look for guilty parties, but to manage the situation in the best way possible," Vives said. "The financial and legal areas of the club are looking at it. The previous board used the money in their budget. If in 2005 someone signed a contract, that person is responsible for it being fulfilled."
Vives was also asked about Monday's European Commission ruling that his club having gained a competitive advantage by paying less tax than most of its rivals over recent decades -- a finding which could cost Barca €5m.
"The club will defend its interests in what is an excessive interpretation of the law," Vives said. "We comply with the law and should not have to pay for that."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan