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A spokesman for Spain’s Guardia Civil told The Associated Press that police agents raided the offices of the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol (RFEF) early Tuesday as part of an investigation into its finances.
The office of the state prosecutor in charge of anti-corruption said they suspect Villar, who is FIFA‘s senior vice president and a UEFA vice president, of having arranged matches for Spain’s national team that led to business deals that benefited his son.
The other three men arrested were Juan Padron, the federation’s vice president of economic affairs, along with the president and the secretary of the regional federation for Tenerife.
Police said the five men were arrested on charges of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents as part of a probe into the finances of the federations. The raids were carried out by the Guardia Civil’s anti-corruption unit as part of an operation called “SOULE.”
Inigo Mendez de Vigo, Spain’s minister of education, culture and sport, told national television moments after the raids that “in Spain the laws are enforced, the laws are the same for all, and nobody, nobody is above the law.”
UEFA said in a statement it is “aware of the reports regarding Mr. Villar Llona. We have no comment to make at this time.”
Spanish newspaper El Pais reports that the investigation is being overseen by Audiencia Nacional judge Santiago Pedraz and is looking into alleged use of RFEF money to secure support from Spain’s regional federations for Villar’s recent re-election for an eighth consecutive term as federation president.
Former Athletic Bilbao player Villar founded Spain’s players union (AFE) in 1978 before becoming RFEF chief in 1988. A strong ally of Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini for many years, the Basque became a vice president of FIFA in 2002, and was last year made acting chairman of the Organising Committee for the World Cup 2018 after corruption charges had cleared away many of the previous office holders in world football’s governing body.
Villar’s seven terms as RFEF president have brought regular allegations of a lack of transparency within the Spanish FA’s finances and decision-making processes. A number of court cases have been brought over the years, but no charges ever stuck.
Gorka Villar stepped down as CONMEBOL director general in July 2016 after his time with the South American federation had also brought many allegations of wrongdoing. He has also been a member of FIFA’s Reform Panel.
The raid comes two days before an RFEF assembly is scheduled to decide the dates for Spanish football’s 2017-18 calendar.