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Spanish football chief held without bail in anti-corruption operation

Ángel María Villar has been RFEF president since 1988.
Ángel María Villar has been RFEF president since 1988. / EFE
  • RFEF president Ángel María Villar, his son and two other directors were arrested on Tuesday as raids on property were carried out

Ángel María Villar, president of the Spanish football governing body, the RFEF, his son Gorka and another two directors were arrested on Tuesday morning in an anti-corruption operation carried out by the Guardia Civil. Police have said that the four men were detained as part of an investigation into the financial mismanagement of Spain’s footballing federations, which created a funding black hole of at least 45 million euros.

The allegations centre on the improper management, the falsification of documents, misappropriation and possible asset-stripping in relation to the organisation of international football friendlies. They also include an alleged exchange of favours between the RFEF and regional directors for their continued support of Villar’s presidency, an accusation which led to the arrests of RFEF vice president and regional president in Tenerife, Juan Padrón, and that federation’s secretary, Ramón Hernández Baussou.

The arrests coincided with raids on ten properties, a combination of homes and offices, including the central headquarters in Las Rozas (Madrid) and other premises in Tenerife, Valencia, Las Palmas, the Balearics and Melilla. A number of businesses belonging to Gorka Villar were also checked.

International friendlies

According to sources close to the investigation, the judge and the Guardia Civil are investigating how the organisation of international friendly matches directly benefitted both Villar personally and the businesses run by his son Gorka, namely the law firm Sports and Advisers. It is believed that Villar obliged the opponents of ‘La Roja’ to contract the company’s services. This supposed diversion of funds goes back as far as 2009 and a match between Spain and South Korea in June 2016 is under particular scrutiny.

The investigation which led to Tuesday’s arrests began a year ago and centered on Villar’s mismanagement. It shed light on his alleged siphoning of federation funds. This money, agents believe, was then used to finance campaigns to get him reelected as the federation’s president, whether in the form of increased wages for regional federation counterparts or other economic “rewards”.

Ángel María Villar, his son Gorka and Juan Padrón all testified in court on Thursday. The first two were held without bail while Padrón had his bail set at 100,000 euros.