Friday, October 22

What is I3 Ventures, the company at the core of ‘Barçagate’

  • The Barça board hired a company used against the ‘procés’ on the recommendation of circles close to the PP and Catalan Civil Society

  • Nicestream’s political propaganda campaigns have also been used by the governments of Ecuador, Chile and Argentina.

Fake accounts, attacks on social networks and blacklists of journalists, businessmen and others close to the Barcelona Soccer Club. These were the pillars of the supposed defamatory plot orchestrated by the board of directors of Josep Maria Bartomeu against its critics, better known as’Barchagate‘. But who is behind the scandal?

As the program ‘What do you play’ on the SER network uncovered, the smear campaign created at least six accounts Facebook with up to 183,500 followers in total in which the top management was defended and players of the Barça What Lionel messi the Gerard Piqué, to the presidential candidates Joan Laporta Y Victor Fuente and even members of the board critical of Bartomeu.

That strategy, which can turn into prison sentences for those accused of alleged corruption, was carried out by I3 Ventures, a data consultancy that carries out content creation campaigns in networks to improve the image of brands and that is owned by Nicestream, communication agency specialized in Big data and brand strategy. Those campaigns of propaganda would be based on the use of bots and fake accounts for handle the information in favor of the client.

Political campaigns in Latin America

Since 2009, the director of Nicestream is the Uruguayan businessman Carlos Ibanez, expert in digital marketing and data. According to his LinkedIn profile, Ibáñez is the founding partner of two other companies, NSG Corp Y Eyewatch, both dedicated to the extraction and analysis of “large volumes of data” applied to the digital communication of companies or governments.

Although he does not mention it on his professional page, Ibáñez also founded the intelligence consultancy Illuminati Laboratory, who worked in Ecuador at the service of the presidency of Rafael Correa. As with ‘Barçagate’, Nicestream’s technology served to discredit opponents of the Ecuadorian Government.

Beyond Barça, the coordination of smear campaigns on social networks is a strategy of dubious ethics common in the political world. The Illuminati Lab has also worked for other governments in Latin America, outlining campaigns to support the presidency of Sebastian Piñera in chili already Kirchner in Argentina. Ibáñez assured in Catalunya Ràdio that he had also advised the former Uruguayan president Jose Mujica.

Against the ‘process’

Nicestream’s smear tactics have also reached Catalonia. Illuminati Lab provided its services to develop attacks against the ‘process‘pro-independence. Bartomeu accessed I3 Ventures through the intervention of Jaime Malet, president of the US chamber of commerce in Spain, fierce critic of the independence linked to the candidacy of Manuel Valls to the mayor of Barcelona now Catalan Civil Society. The Spanish entity, connected with the extreme right, had also used the bots of I3 Ventures to attack the ‘procés’. Malet took a commission for each client it provided.

Malet is also the owner of Telampartners, a financial activity company that received part of the money that Barça paid to I3 Ventures, according to the police report to which EL PERIÓDICO has had access.

After the arrest of Bartomeu, the former vice president of Barça, Emili rousaud, assured in RAC1 that the hiring of I3 Ventures had been recommended by someone close to Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, former vice president of the PAGES and right hand of Mariano Rajoy during his years of government.

Fiscal headquarters in Madrid

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Between 2017 and 2020, Barça paid a total of 2.3 million euros to Nicestream, divided into “fictitious subdivisions” to avoid review by the club’s delegate commission, according to the police report of the Mossos referred to the judge. In it, an employee of the company assures that the final objective was to “erode” Bartomeu’s rivals and extol his figure. The rest of the employees denied that they were commissioned to defame anyone.

I3 Ventures and Nicestream have their tax headquarters in Madrid, but Ibáñez resides in the Catalan capital. The website of the parent company is under maintenance and updated information on its accounts and financial results is unknown.

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