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Spanish prosecutors want to reopen ex-Barça player liver transplant case

Move comes after Spain’s National Transplant Organization fails to find wrongdoing in 2012 procedure on Éric Abidal

Éric Abidal (center) is introduced as Barça's new technical secretary.
Éric Abidal (center) is introduced as Barça's new technical secretary.LLUIS GENE / AFP

Spanish prosecutors have asked a Barcelona court to reopen a case involving a liver transplant performed on former Barcelona FC soccer player Éric Abidal.

The prosecution wants to “clear up differences found in the various documents” that were provided, and to positively identify the living donor who helped the cancer-stricken Abidal, who is currently the soccer team’s technical secretary.

Wiretapped phone conversations appeared to suggest that the liver was bought by the soccer club

This same court had already reviewed potential wrongdoing in connection with the transplant, which was carried out at Barcelona’s Clínic Hospital in 2012. The investigation ended in April when no damning evidence emerged.

The investigation was launched after news reports alleged there may have been irregularities with the transplant. A cousin of Abidal’s was said to be the living donor, but wiretapped phone conversations by then-Barcelona FC president Sandro Rosell appeared to suggest that the liver was bought by the club, and that Abidal’s cousin was not, in fact, the donor. Payment for organs is illegal in Spain.

Asked for proof of kinship between Abidal and the donor, the hospital sent a statement from Abidal’s wife saying that the donor was Gérard Armand, her husband’s cousin. The health center later faxed both men’s birth certificates, which showed that their mothers share the same surname.

The Barcelona judge asked a court in the French city of Lyon to take a statement from Armand and have him medically examined to see whether he has scars that would suggest liver extraction surgery. The French judiciary refused, arguing that payment for living organ donations is not a crime in France.

On July 17, Spain’s National Transplant Organization (ONT) concluded that the liver transplant performed on Abidal was carried out “in accordance with the law” as far as it could tell. The announcement came after the ONT – in conjunction with the Clinic hospital in Barcelona and the Catalan Transplant Organization (OCATT) – examined “every single one of the processes within its powers, that’s to say, from a clinical and healthcare point of view.”

In the wake of the allegations, Abidal strenuously denied that there had been any wrongdoing, and published a photo of himself and his cousin in hospital purportedly after the procedure had taken place.

English version by Susana Urra.

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