MADRID: Former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell arrived in handcuffs Monday to stand trial on charges of money laundering related to the sale of television rights for matches involving the Brazil national team.
Rosell, a former Nike executive in Brazil who presided over Barcelona from 2010-14, has been accused of misappropriating money coming from the sale of TV rights for friendly matches featuring Brazil as well as from a sponsorship contract between Nike and Brazil. He is also charged with forming part of a criminal organization.
Rosell has been in custody since his arrest nearly 21 months ago. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Police officers took Rosell’s handcuffs off inside the courtroom, but put them back on when he left for a short recess during the trial.
He did not speak before the judge on the trial’s first day but was expected to be questioned this week.
Rosell’s lawyers again called for him to be released, saying it was not fair for him to be in custody for such a long period without being convicted of any crime.
Several requests to release Rosell have been denied as judges deemed he poses a flight risk because of his connections abroad.
Defense lawyers also pointed to procedural irregularities they thought could nullify some of the evidence produced against their client, and argued the court in Madrid was not fully competent to hear the case.
Spanish prosecutors are seeking an 11-year prison sentence for Rosell, plus a fine of nearly 60 million euros ($68 million).
Rosell’s wife and four other individuals also have been charged in the case.
The accusations are not directly related to Rosell’s presidency at Barcelona.
Prosecutors say Rosell helped launder nearly 20 million euros ($22 million) related to commissions for Brazil matches during the time embattled Brazilian Football Confederation president Ricardo Teixeira was in charge.
Teixeira, a former FIFA executive committee member, was indicted by US authorities in 2015 as part of the soccer corruption scandal.
Rosell’s trial is expected to last 10 days with different sessions through March.
The 54-year-old Rosell was also involved in a case related to Neymar’s transfer from Brazilian club Santos to Barcelona in 2013. Corruptions charges have been brought after a Brazilian investment group said it received a smaller compensation because part of Neymar’s transfer fee was concealed by those involved.