Spain: High Ranking FIFA Official Arrested in Corruption Probe

Published: 19 July 2017

128px-Ángel María Villar copyAngel Maria Villar Llona (Photo: Javisuar, CC BY-SA 4.0)

By Vanja Lakic

Spanish police on Tuesday arrested the president of the country’s football association, his son and several other executives as part of a corruption investigation into financial wrongdoing in the soccer world, ESPN reported.

Angel Maria Villar Llona, the president of the Spanish football association, his son, Gorka Villar, and two other executives were detained as police carried out raids at the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol’s headquarters in Madrid.

Villar Llona, who is the second highest ranking official in the soccer world, is accused of arranging matches for Spain's national team that created business deals benefiting his son.

The other men arrested were Juan Padron, the federation's vice president of economic affairs who is also the president of the regional federation for Tenerife, and Ramon Hernandez, the secretary of that regional federation.

The police said the men were arrested on charges of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents as part of an inquiry into the finances of the federation that began in 2016.

Spain's minister of education, culture and sport, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, said 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."

A former professional football player, the 67-year-old Villar has been the head of Spain's football federation since 1988 leading the nation to victories in the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.

His son, Gorka, worked for South American body CONMEBOL as legal director and then as the director general for presidents who were implicated in the US federal investigation. Gorka Villar left CONMEBOL in July 2016.

The arrests mark Spain’s latest crackdown on financial wrongdoing in soccer. Last year, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and his father were found guilty of tax fraud. Several others including Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and former Madrid coach Jose Mourinho were also implicated in the investigation. Both have denied tax fraud accusations.

Villar Llona’s arrest throws Spain's chances of repeating its 2010 FIFA World Cup victory into disarray. The next tournament is scheduled to take place next year in Russia.