Spanish supremo held in anti-corruption probe
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.