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Spanish football president Villar arrested in corruption probe

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Angel Maria Villar

Angel Maria Villar, the president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and a FIFA vice-president, was arrested on Tuesday along with his son Gorka in an anti-corruption operation, the Guardia Civil law enforcement agency said.
    
The headquarters of the RFEF and private homes were raided as part of the investigation, a statement said.
    
The operation is being carried out by the Guardia Civil under the supervision of the judge of the National Court, Santiago Pedraz, who is investigating alleged false administration, misappropriation, corruption between individuals and falsification, it added.
    
Police also arrested two other football executives, Juan Padron, a financial deputy director and president of the Tenerife football federation, and Ramon Hernandez Baussou, secretary general of the Tenerife federation, as part of the operation called SOULE.
    
“As part of the operation, the Guardia Civil is conducting various searches of the RFEF headquarters, the Tenerife federation headquarters, and various homes and offices linked to those detained,” a statement said.
    
In initial investigations it is alleged Villar favoured leaders of regional federations, using money from the RFEF to obtain support for his re-election as the head of the Spanish football federation.
    
The Guardia Civil said the investigation, which began in early 2016, had looked into how Villar had allegedly arranged certain fixtures of the Spain national team “that enabled him to obtain payment for the contracting of services and other commercial activities that benefited his son,” a lawyer specialising in sport.
    
The Spanish government meanwhile said all football competitions in the country would proceed as usual despite the arrests.
   
“Spain is a state of law, no area of ??this country is outside of legality nor is it beyond the control of justice, sports and football,” said the government’s Council of Sports (CSD) in a statement.
   
“Institutions work, we must let the state security forces and bodies, and judicial bodies work.”
   
Jose Ramon Lete, secretary of state for sport, said Villar’s arrest “is not good for the image of Spain.”
   
Villar, 67, was re-elected unopposed in May for the eighth time as RFEF president to begin another four-year term.
   
The former Athletic Bilbao player and Spain international has been president of RFEF for 29 years.
   
He has been a member of world governing body FIFA’s executive committee, now council, for the last 19 years and has been a member of European governing body UEFA’s executive committee since 1992.
    
In November 2015, he was warned by FIFA’s ethics committee and fined for failing to cooperate in a probe by former FIFA investigator Michael Garcia into the controversial allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.
   
Later he showed willingness to cooperate in the investigation. He and Hany Abo Rida of Egypt are now the only remaining members of the then FIFA executive, who voted for the two World Cup hosts in December 2010. 
   
Gorka Villar became an influential figure within the South American confederation CONMEBOL, where from December 2014 until July 2016 he served as director general.
    
A FIFA spokesperson said it had “taken note of the media reports concerning the situation of Mr Villar Llona.”
   
He added: “As the matter seems to be linked to internal affairs of the Spanish Football Association, for the time being we kindly refer you to them for further details.”
   
The arrests and raids come just two days before Thursday’s RFEF general assembly during which the fixture schedule for the 2017-2018 Spanish league season is expected to be approved.
   
Although Villar and Padron, one of three vice-presidents but regarded as Villar’s right-hand man at the federation, are now under arrest the federation’s statutes allow the assembly to go ahead with the president represented either in order by a vice-president, the treasurer or ultimately by the most senior member.

Source: GNA

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