Span­ish supremo held in anti-cor­rup­tion probe

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

MADRID — Po­lice raided the head­quar­ters of Spain’s soc­cer fed­er­a­tion on Tues­day and ar­rested fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent An­gel Maria Vil­lar as part of an anti-cor­rup­tion probe.

Vil­lar, 67, a se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of FIFA, world soc­cer’s gov­ern­ing body, was be­ing held on sus­pi­cion of abus­ing his po­si­tion to em­bez­zle funds, among other charges, a ju­di­cial source said.

FIFA de­clined to com­ment on the ar­rest, with a spokesman say­ing it was an “in­ter­nal af­fair” for Spain de­spite Vil­lar’s years as a top in­ter­na­tional soc­cer ad­min­is­tra­tor.

Vil­lar’s son Gorka, along with fed­er­a­tion vice-pres­i­dent and fi­nan­cial chief Juan Padron were also held in con­nec­tion with the probe, which fo­cuses on al­le­ga­tions of skim­ming prof­its from in­ter­na­tional matches.

An in­ves­ti­gat­ing mag­is­trate from Spain’s po­lit­i­cal and fi­nan­cial crimes court is lead­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of “col­lu­sion, fraud, em­bez­zle­ment and pre­sumed forgery”.

Po­lice who car­ried out raids on the fed­er­a­tion head­quar­ters in the up­scale Madrid sub­urb of Las Rozas and other lo­ca­tions said Vil­lar is sus­pected of or­ga­niz­ing in­ter­na­tional soc­cer matches as part of a scheme to em­bez­zle funds for the ben­e­fit of his son.

Span­ish me­dia said a friendly be­tween Spain and South Korea held in June 2016 is among the matches be­lieved to have been staged as part of the scheme.

Po­lice agents es­corted Vil­lar into the fed­er­a­tion of­fices sev­eral hours after he was ar­rested.

Gorka Vil­lar is a for­mer di­rec­tor gen­eral of CONMEBOL, the South Amer­i­can soc- cer con­fed­er­a­tion, a post he quit in July last year. He also served on a FIFA ad­vi­sory panel aimed at re­form­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion mired in cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions.

Vil­lar se­nior has over­seen a glo­ri­ous pe­riod in the Span­ish na­tional team’s his­tory as it won three con­sec­u­tive ma­jor tour­na­ments, tri­umph­ing at Euro 2008 and 2012 ei­ther side of a first ever World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

But his crit­ics say his pe­riod in charge has also been un­der­mined by eth­i­cal ques­tions and an au­to­cratic man­age­ment style.

Javier Te­bas, head of the Span­ish league, has had a long-run­ning feud with Vil­lar and refers to him as a “feu­dal baron”.

Vil­lar sur­vived the mas­sive cor­rup­tion scan­dal that en­gulfed FIFA in 2015 and ul­ti­mately led to the down­fall of for­mer pres­i­dent Sepp Blat­ter.

In the fall of 2015 he rose to be­come stand-in UEFA head for al­most a year when Michel Pla­tini was fight­ing to keep his job be­fore he was banned from soc­cer for cor­rup­tion.

But the for­mer Ath­letic Bil­bao mid­fielder, capped 22 times for Spain, has been dogged by eth­i­cal is­sues over the years.

He has been un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion after the fed­er­a­tion re­ceived a $1.4 mil­lion sub­sidy to set up a soc­cer academy in Haiti that was never built.

The fed­er­a­tion re­turned the money, but the plan is still the sub­ject of court pro­ceed­ings.

In early 2016 the gov­ern­ment’s sports coun­cil also or­dered the open­ing of a dis­ci­plinary probe into his al­leged mis­con­duct in deal­ings with a third-di­vi­sion club.

Most no­tably he was fined $25,700 by FIFA’s ethics com­mit­tee in 2015 for fail­ing to co­op­er­ate dur­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the award­ing of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Rus­sia and Qatar re­spec­tively.


Magic John­son watches the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers de­feat the Port­land Trail Blaz­ers in Mon­day’s NBA sum­mer-league clash in Las Ve­gas.


Span­ish soc­cer fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent An­gel Maria Vil­lar is es­corted by a mem­ber of the Civil Guards after a raid at the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s head­quar­ters out­side Madrid on Tues­day.

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