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Barcelona president Sandro Rosell accused of fraud by Brazilians

Photo: Manu Fernandez/AP

Sandro Rosell (left) shakes hands with Jordi Alba upon Alba joining Barcelona last year.

Barcelona President Sandro Rosell has been accused in Brazil of illegally benefiting from a friendly organized by his marketing company in 2008.

Prosecutors said Tuesday the Ailanto sports marketing company, which is owned by Rosell, was hired to organize the Brazil vs. Portugal friendly without a proper bidding process. They also said a false document was used to give the company the contract for the match.

Prosecutors said Ailanto received $4 million to organize the match in Brasilia, the nation's capital.

A court has accepted the prosecutors' claims, saying there is enough evidence to back up their case, but the defense still has to be heard before formal charges can be filed.

Rosell, Barcelona's president since July 2010, could face up to eight years in prison in Brazil if he is charged and found guilty.

Rosell's lawyer in Brazil, Antenor Madruga, dismissed the accusations. He said Rosell had already been cleared of previous accusations that he illegally bought the rights to the match from the Brazilian federation.

"The charges that have been leveled are under two allegations,'' Madruga told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "One about whether his company had the capacity to promote matches, the other whether he presented false documents to prove he was able to promote matches. The police investigation did not come to any conclusion, but the prosecutor went ahead anyway.''

Prosecutors allege the company had just been created and did not yet have the capacity to promote matches.

"The contract had nothing to do about capacity, it's about owning rights to the match,'' Madruga said. "Hence the charges are ridiculous, it's nothing. The legality of this case rests on nothing.''

Prosecutors also allege a document from a different company was presented in the process, but Madruga said it was not a "false'' document because both companies "are both 99 percent owned'' by Rosell.

"Sandro had the rights to the game and he used that to proceed,'' Madruga said. "The game was a success, Portugal did play. This happens in Brazil sometimes, they do these things due to other motivations. Sandro owned the rights and that is what is important.''

There were also claims of over-billing of air tickets and hotel stays during the friendly. Prosecutors said that most of the cost for organizing the match ended up being paid for by the local football federation instead of Ailanto.

Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, Brazil's largest, first reported the formal accusations against Rosell on Tuesday.

After the three-year investigation, prosecutors also accused former federal district Gov. Jose Roberto Arruda of hiring Ailanto without the proper bidding process.

Arruda was removed from office in 2010 and briefly arrested in connection to an unrelated corruption scheme. Folha said he has also denied any wrongdoing in this case, saying that Ailanto had the rights for the match so a bidding process was not needed.

Former Brazilian federation president Ricardo Teixeira had been linked to Ailanto in the past, but he was not among those accused by prosecutors in this case. Brazilian media had previously reported that documents showed that Rosell deposited nearly $2 million in the account of one of Teixeira's daughters in 2011.

Rosell used to be one of Nike's top executives in Brazil and helped the company close the current sponsorship deal with the Brazilian football federation.

The irregularities in the friendly came up just before Teixeira resigned from the federation and the local 2014 World Cup organizing committee amid of widespread allegations of corruption and irregularities on his administration.

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