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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Football: Spain's federation chief held in fraud probe

Angel Maria Villar, who is also a senior vice-president of Fifa, is being held on suspicion of embezzling funds, among other charges.

A Spanish Guardia Civil stand guard outside headquarters of  the Spanish football federation in Madrid on July 18, 2017 during a raid related to the investigation into Angel Maria Villar, president of the Spanish Football Federation, who has been accused of embezzlement. Pierre-Philippe-Marcou / AFP
A Spanish Guardia Civil stand guard outside headquarters of the Spanish football federation in Madrid on July 18, 2017 during a raid related to the investigation into Angel Maria Villar, president of the Spanish Football Federation, who has been accused of embezzlement. Pierre-Philippe-Marcou / AFP

Police raided the headquarters of Spain's football federation on Tuesday and arrested its president Angel Maria Villar as part of an anti-corruption probe.

A judicial source said Villar, 67, a senior vice president of Fifa, the world football governing body, was being held on suspicion of abusing his position to embezzle funds from the federation, among other charges. Villar's son Gorka and another senior federation official were also detained in the probe which focuses on allegations of skimming profits from international matches.

FIFA declined to comment on the arrest,, saying it was internal matter of the Spanish Football Association.

Spain's political and financial crimes court said it is directing the investigation into allegations of "collusion, fraud, embezzlement and presumed forgery."

Police who carried out raids on the federation headquarters and other locations said Villar is suspected of organising international football matches as part of a scheme to embezzle funds for the benefit of his son.

Commenting on the Villar arrest, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, a spokesman for the Spanish government, told public television "No one is untouchable and everyone must obey the law."

Villar, a former acting president and the current vice president of UEFA, which runs European football, has headed the Spanish federation since 1988. He was reelected unopposed for an eighth term in May despite allegations of vote-rigging that cast a shadow over his win.

His son Gorka Villar is a former director general of CONMEBOL, the South American football confederation, a post he quit in July last year. He also served on a Fifa advisory panel aimed at reforming the organisation which is mired in corruption allegations.

Villar senior has overseen a glorious period in the Spanish national team's history as they won three back-to-back major tournaments, triumphing at Euro 2008 and 2012 and in between notching up Spain's first World Cup win 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, the head of the Spanish league, has had a long-running feud with Villar and refers to him as a feudal baron.

The former Athletic Bilbao midfielder was capped 22 times for Spain but has also had a number of ethical questions hanging over him over the years. Most notably he was fined 25,000 Swiss francs (Dh96,212 ) by Fifa's ethics committee in 2015 for failing to cooperate with an investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.