Spanish football federation president Angel Maria Villar's 30-year reign ends as wiretaps reveal corruption

Madrid: Angel Maria Villar's arrest on corruption charges, based in part on wiretaps, has brought an abrupt and ignominious end to his three decade-long reign at the helm of Spanish football.

Villar, a senior vice-president of FIFA who has ruled the Spanish game with a rod of iron since 1988, and his son Gorka, were arrested on Tuesday and detained in custody.

Angel Maria Villar was recently arrested as part of a corruption investigation. Reuters

Angel Maria Villar was recently arrested as part of a corruption investigation. Reuters

On Thursday the controversial Spanish football federation (RFEF) president spent his first night in the Soto del Real prison near Madrid, which regularly houses crooked politicians and businessmen.

Villar, with his 29-year-old son, is accused of a litany of serious crimes listed in a 44-page charge sheet.

These include embezzling funds, falsifying documents, collusion and administrative breaches linked to skimming profits from international friendly games and channelling the funds to Gorka's Sports Advisers company.

The 67-year-old, who is also vice-president of UEFA, is also suspected of raiding the federation's coffers to bribe regional leaders in exchange for votes at elections to keep him in his position.

Over the past 29 years Villar is accused of establishing "a crony's network" to keep him propped up in power.

The investigation is being headed by High Court judge Santiago Pedraz.

Pedraz accuses Villar of "arbitrarily awarding contracts for the provision of services to companies directly or indirectly linked to his network".

Cash for votes 

Villar's potential nemesis has at his disposal reels of taped conversations, excerpts of which were splashed all over Spanish media on Friday.

In one of these recordings from last month Villar is heard in conversation with Jose Angel Pelaez, president of the northern Cantabria federation.

Pelaez tells Villar that he has left € 5.2 million to use as he, Villar, sees fit.

In another, former Spain manager Javier Clemente tells RFEF vice-president Juan Padron of a favour to the boss of the Murcia regional federation - namely the staging of Spain's friendly with Colombia in June in Murcia in exchange for votes at May's RFEF election.

"For fuck's sake Juan, these votes are bought, amen amen in exchange for money," Clemente says.

Under Villar's watch Spain became one of the dominant forces in world football, winning two European championships and the 2010 World Cup.

But his critics say his period in charge was marked by ethical issues and an autocratic management style.

Following his re-election in May, El Pais newspaper denounced his "despotic" management and bemoaned his close ties to FIFA and UEFA leaders embroiled in corruption probes.

Spain's sports ministry, the CSD, has started disciplinary proceedings aimed at stripping Villar of his position.

It has called a meeting for next Tuesday to get him kicked out, along with Padron and Ramon Hernandez Baussou, general secretary of the Tenerife federation, who were also arrested on Tuesday.

Villar's arrest has left the Spanish federation resembling "a burning anthill", Spanish daily AS claimed in an editorial.

His downfall is the latest scandal to hit Spanish football after the tax fraud cases involving star players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Javier Mascherano.

Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo is due in court on 31 July to answer to answer four counts of tax evasion of 14.7 million euros.


Published Date: Jul 22, 2017 12:38 pm | Updated Date: Jul 22, 2017 12:38 pm


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