New reports obtained during the investigation into the scandal have revealed how some of the parties were identified and pursued through social media
Leaders of the Catalan independence movement and critics of Josep Maria Bartomeu’s Barcelona administration were among the prime targets of the infamous ‘Barcagate’, which saw social media used to publicly attack several figures connected to the club.
Barca stood accused at the start of 2021 of hiring a company which defamed the likes of Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique as well as club legend Pep Guardiola, a scandal which contributed to Bartomeu’s decision to stand down earlier this year.
Now, new data accessed by Goal shows that the football personalities were far from the only ones to be singled out in this manner.
The Independence Movement
In public, Barcelona expressed solidarity with the leaders of the Catalan independence movement, some of whom were jailed or exiled following the controversial 2017 referendum and subsequent declaration of independence.
The Catalan police report on their raid on Jaume Masferrer’s home, Bartomeu’s right-hand man tells a different tale.
Among the items seized in the search was Masferrer’s personal notebook, which contained several allusions to the movement and has been seen by Goal.
“Tusquets has the plan for independence,” one scrawled annotation states. This is a reference to Carlos Tusquets (ex-club treasurer), who was the interim president after Bartomeu’s resignation. He later handed power over to Joan Laporta.
Masferrer shows that the director is opposed to pro-independence figures gaining control within the club. He says, “Tusquets said that you have to act in order to stop them from winning the Barca presidency.”
Quim Torra, Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, pro-independence figures who held senior positions in the Catalan parliament at the time of the 2017 crisis – Torra and Puigdemont are ex-presidents while Junqueras served as vice-president – were all targeted by disparaging social media messages controlled by I3 Ventures, the company Barca are alleged to have hired for such a purpose.
‘Make some noise on social media’
Police investigations also unearthed WhatsApp messages found in the files of I3 Ventures’ parent company NiceStream, which Goal has also seen.
These messages show that Josep Maria Minguella was a long-standing collaborator with Barca and was targeted for an online intimidation campaign after he publicly criticised the Bartomeu administration.
One message contains instructions on how to pursue Minguella via the company’s controlled accounts. The goal is to “make some noise for him” on social media, where the objectivity and objectivity of his comments will be questioned, as they only respond to commercial interests.
“Maybe this nudge might make him realize he is on a wrong track and make him reconsider… It is one of those situations that arises because we don’t take action when we should.
“I think that if you start to give a few “nudges”, they might think first, before going out to cause damage.