Judge puts ex-Barcelona player Pique under official investigation in Saudi soccer case

Soccer Football - LaLiga - Osasuna v FC Barcelona - El Sadar Stadium, Pamplona, Spain - November 8, 2022 FC Barcelona's Gerard Pique before the match REUTERS/Vincent West/ File Photo

MADRID (Reuters) -A Spanish judge has placed former Barcelona FC player Gerard Pique under official investigation for his alleged involvement in illegal payments in the relocation of Spain's Super Cup to Saudi Arabia.

Judge Delia Rodrigo concluded there were indications of wrongdoing in the deal between Pique's company Kosmos and the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF), according to a court document.

According to the court documents, former RFEF President Luis Rubiales, Saudi government-owned Sela Sport Company and Pique signed agreements in 2019 and 2020 in which Pique's company would receive 40 million euros ($43.3 million) as a "success bonus" for the games being held in Saudi Arabia each year.

The RFEF was set to receive 400 million euros, according to the agreement.

"The facts under investigation in the present proceedings originate from possible illegalities with criminal implications in contracting or agreements," Rodrigo wrote.

Pique did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The court has been investigating since June 2022 whether Rubiales committed a crime of improper management when the RFEF agreed with Pique's Kosmos firm to move the tournament.

In March, police searched RFEF's headquarters and an apartment belonging to Rubiales and arrested seven people in a corruption probe over the multimillion-euro deal.

Rubiales, who has denied any wrongdoing, was told he was a suspect in the probe by police in April after returning from spending two months in the Dominican Republic on what he described as a business trip.

Pique, who played for Barcelona in Super Cup matches in Saudi Arabia, was originally awarded an annual payment of four million euros over six years. This was later extended by four years.

Pedro Rocha, who at the time was head of the RFEF's economic department, failed to call a meeting of the economic commission as he should have done to analyse the four-year extension of the deal.

Rocha was elected president of the RFEF last month despite being put under investigation after testifying as a witness in court and saying he had no knowledge of or responsibility for any of the alleged crimes being investigated in the case.

($1 = 0.9228 euros)

(Reporting by Charlie Devereux; additional reporting by Fernando Kallas; editing by Clare Fallon)

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