Span­ish ex­ec­u­tive held in cor­rup­tion probe

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Aritz Parra and Joseph Wil­son

MADRID» The ex­ec­u­tive who over­saw Spain’s rise to dom­i­nate world soc­cer in re­cent years was ar­rested Tues­day in an an­ticor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion, deal­ing yet an­other blow to the sport’s al­ready-tar­nished im­age.

An­gel Maria Vil­lar, his son, Gorka Vil­lar, and two other soc­cer of­fi­cials were de­tained while raids were con­ducted at the fed­er­a­tion head­quar­ters and other prop­er­ties, the state pros­e­cu­tor and Span­ish po­lice said.

The el­der Vil­lar, who has led the Span­ish Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion for three decades and is the se­nior vice pres­i­dent of FIFA and a vice pres­i­dent for the Euro­pean foot­ball or­ga­ni­za­tion, is sus­pected of hav­ing ar­ranged matches for Spain that led to busi­ness deals ben­e­fit­ing his son, said the of­fice of the state pros­e­cu­tor in charge of anti-cor­rup­tion.

An­gel Maria Vil­lar is a long­time power bro­ker in foot­ball inside and be­yond Spain’s bor­ders. He was sin­gled out for ques­tion­able con­duct in the 2014 FIFA re­port on the World Cup bid­ding process that rocked the sport.

A 2015 U.S. in­ves­ti­ga­tion into cor­rup­tion in world soc­cer led to the even­tual res­ig­na­tion of long­time pres­i­dent Sepp Blat­ter and other top of­fi­cials.

Sev­eral hours af­ter Tues­day’s ar­rests, po­lice es­corted Vil­lar into the fed­er­a­tion of­fices in Las Rozas, on the out­skirts of Madrid. He emerged from a Guardia Civil ve­hi­cle flanked by two uni­formed agents. Two po­lice­men guarded the en­trance to the fed­er­a­tion of­fices near the train­ing grounds for Spain’s na­tional teams.

Also ar­rested were Juan Padron, the fed­er­a­tion’s vice pres­i­dent of eco­nomic af­fairs who is also pres­i­dent of the re­gional fed­er­a­tion for Tener­ife, and Ra­mon Her­nan­dez, the sec­re­tary of that re­gional fed­er­a­tion.

The four were ar­rested on charges of im­proper man­age­ment, mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of funds, cor­rup­tion and fal­si­fy­ing doc­u­ments as part of an in­quiry into the fi­nances of the fed­er­a­tions.

As part of an op­er­a­tion called “Soule,” the Guardia Civil said it raided the na­tional fed­er­a­tion’s head­quar­ters, the of­fices of the re­gional soc­cer fed­er­a­tion on the is­land of Tener­ife and “head­quar­ters of busi­nesses and sev­eral pri­vate homes linked to the ar­rested in­di­vid­u­als.”

Po­lice be­gan the in­ves­ti­ga­tion in early 2016 af­ter a com­plaint from Spain’s Higher Coun­cil of Sport, the gov­ern­ment’s sports author­ity.

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