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Spanish football federation president arrested on corruption charges

The head of the Spanish football federation has been arrested on corruption charges along with his son. The charges relate to the alleged embezzlement of funds and international match-fixing.

Spanish police on Tuesday arrested the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and current senior vice president of FIFA, Angel Maria Villar, 67, on corruption charges - along with his son.

Villar is being held on suspicion of abusing his position to embezzle funds from the federation, according to a source cited by the AFP news agency. 

An investigation led the state prosecutor to suspect that Villar "could have arranged matches of the Spanish national team with other national teams, thereby gaining in return contracts for services and other business ventures in benefit of his son."

everal hours after Tuesday's arrests, police escorted Villar into the federation offices in Las Rozas, on the outskirts of Madrid. He emerged from a Guardia Civil vehicle flanked by two uniformed officers.

"We have taken note of the media reports concerning the situation of Mr. Villar Llona," FIFA said in a statement. "As the matter seems to be linked to internal affairs of the Spanish Football Association, for the time being we kindly refer you to them for further details."

Police began the investigation in early 2016 after a complaint from Spain's Higher Council of Sport, the government's sports authority.

His son, Gorka, and another federation official were also arrested on charges relating to alleged match-fixing at international level, according to the same source. 

Moments after the morning raid on the RFEF's headquarters, Spain's minister of education, culture and sport, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, told national television: "In Spain, the laws are enforced, the laws are the same for all and nobody, nobody, is above the law."

European football's governing body, UEFA, released a statement saying it "is aware of the reports regarding Mr.
Villar Llona" but that "we have no comment to make at this time."

Villar senior, a former professional footballer for Athletic Bilbao and the Spanish national team, was first elected as president of the RFEF in 1988.

In November 2015, he was officially warned and fined by FIFA's Ethics Commission for initially failing to testify about the controversial awardings of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively. He did ultimately agree to co-operate. 

He is a longtime power broker in football both in Spain and internationally, and was singled out for "questionable conduct" in the 2014 FIFA report into the World Cup bidding process. A 2015 US probe into corruption in world soccer led to the eventual resignation of longtime president Sepp Blatter and other top officials.

The Higher Council of Sport said it will "use everything in its means to ensure that competitions are not affected" by the arrests.

The Royal Spanish Federation of Football has postponed meetings to draw the Spanish football league schedule.

mf/bk (AP, SID, AFD) 

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