Spanish executive held in corruption probe
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.