Spain's football chief Villar arrested in fraud probe

Police raided the headquarters of Spain's football federation yesterday 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 football's world governing body Fifa, was being held on suspicion of abusing his position to embezzle funds from the federation, among other charges, the source said.

Fifa declined to comment on the arrest.

Villar's son Gorka and another senior federation official were among those also detained in the probe which notably focuses on allegations of skimming profits from international matches, the source told AFP.

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

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

Inigo Mendez de Vigo, a spokesman for the Spanish government, told public television in response to the Villar arrest that "no one is untouchable and everyone must obey the law".

Villar, who is also a Uefa vice-president, has headed the Spanish federation since 1988.

He was re-elected unopposed for an eighth term in May despite allegations of vote-rigging.

His son Gorka 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 mired in corruption allegations.

Villar has overseen a glorious period in the Spanish national team's history. La Roja won three back-to-back major tournaments, triumphing at Euro 2008 and 2012 either side of a first-ever 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.

In 2015, Villar was fined 25,000 Swiss francs (S$35,500) by Fifa's ethics committee for failing to cooperate during a probe into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. - AFP